Facebook suspends another data analytics firm

Company has links to Cambridge university

Facebook has suspended another data analytics firm with links to Cambridge university pending an investigation into the potential leak of personal data. It also called on UK data regulators to look into "the development of apps in general" by a research arm of the university.

Facebook’s move has shone a fresh spotlight on the work of the university’s Psychometrics Centre, which was already at risk of becoming embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

An academic at the university, Aleksandr Kogan, drew on work developed by the centre when collecting data about 87 million Facebook users. Though ostensibly collected for academic research, the data were allegedly leaked to Cambridge Analytica, and a whistleblower has said they were used to target voters by the Trump presidential campaign, as well as Vote Leave during the UK's Brexit referendum.


The Psychometrics Centre defended itself late on Sunday from questions raised by the latest Facebook action, taken against an analytics company called CubeYou. It said it had made it clear that the latest app to come under scrutiny — a personality quiz called “You Are What You Like” — had been clearly labelled as being for both academic and commercial purposes. It also said it would ”be contacting Facebook to demonstrate that data collected from our apps is being used strictly in accordance with the apps’ terms of use”.


However, the Cambridge research group also sought to distance itself from some of CubeYou’s claims about its work with the company. “Several of CubeYou’s claims on its blog appear to be misleading and we will be contacting them urgently to request clarification,” it said.

In particular, it said it had “not collaborated with them to build a psychological prediction model”, and that the prediction algorithm had been fully under the academics’ control.

CubeYou said: “All our Facebook apps have always complied with Facebook’s data policy and rules.” It also said it had been “subject to regular audits and reviews” by the company.


Besides suspending the app and a successor, Apple Magic Sauce, Facebook was on Sunday working on suspending as many as 50 other apps linked to the company.

The latest suspension by Facebook came to light after the US financial network CNBC alerted the social networking company to the possible leak of data through the app, whose privacy policy said data were being collected for academic research.

“These are serious claims and we have suspended CubeYou from Facebook while we investigate them,” said Ime Archibong, head of product partnership at Facebook.

He added that the company would “work with the UK ICO [Information Commissioner’s Office] to ask the University of Cambridge about the development of apps in general by its Psychometrics Centre given this case and the misuse by Kogan”.

– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018