Facebook employees were aware of concerns about“improper data-gathering practices” by Cambridge Analytica months before the Guardian first reported, in December 2015, that the political consultancy had obtained data on millions from an academic. The concerns appeared in a court filing by the attorney general for Washington DC and were subsequently confirmed by Facebook.
The new information “could suggest that Facebook has consistently mislead [sic]” British lawmakers “about what it knew and when about Cambridge Analytica”, tweeted Damian Collins, the chair of the House of Commons digital culture media and sport select committee (DCMS) in response to the court filing.
In a statement, a company spokesperson said: “Facebook absolutely did not mislead anyone about this timeline.”
After publication of this article, the spokesperson acknowledged that Facebook employees heard rumors of data scraping by Cambridge Analytica in September 2015. The spokesperson said that this was a “different incident” from Cambridge Analytica’s acquisition of a trove of data about as many as 87m users that has been widely reported on for the past year.
“In September 2015 employees heard speculation that Cambridge Analytica was scraping data, something that is unfortunately common for any internet service,” the spokesperson said. “In December 2015, we first learned through media reports that Kogan sold data to Cambridge Analytica, and we took action. Those were two different things.”
The filing raised questions about when Facebook first learned about the misuse of personal data by Cambridge Analytica, the now defunct political consultancy.