Cambridge Analytica may have accessed Facebook data of more than 300k Australians

In total data of 87 million people may have been shared with Cambridge Analytica

Cambridge Analytica may have had access to the Facebook account data of more than 311,000 Australian residents.

The social networking site has revealed that in total, the Facebook data of 87 million people may have been shared with the data analytics firm. The vast majority of those people — more than 81 per cent — were located in the United States. Australians accounted for just 0.4 per cent.

An investigation by the New York Times and The Observer last month revealed that Cambridge Analytica, which was retained by US President Donald Trump’s election campaign, had acquired the Facebook data of an estimated 50 million people via researcher Aleksandr Kogan.

In response to the subsequent outcry Facebook revamped some of its privacy controls and detailed new restrictions on developer access to its data.

In a blog post, Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer revealed additional changes to third-party data access, including changes to Facebooks events, groups and pages API.

The CTO said that Facebook has also tightened its review process for apps that request information to user information such as check-ins, likes, photos, posts, videos, events and groups.

“We will also no longer allow apps to ask for access to personal information such as religious or political views, relationship status and details, custom friends lists, education and work history, fitness activity, book reading activity, music listening activity, news reading, video watch activity, and games activity,” the Facebook executive wrote.

“In the next week, we will remove a developer’s ability to request data people shared with them if it appears they have not used the app in the last 3 months.”

Other changes include depreciating the Instagram Platform API, changes to searching for individuals and account recovery, shutting down Partner Categories, which allows third-party data providers to offer their targeting directly on Facebook, and highlighting to users what data is shared with apps they use.

In a statement Cambridge Analytica said it “licensed data for no more than 30 million people from GSR [Kogan’s company], as is clearly stated in our contract with the research company. We did not receive more data than this.”

“We did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election,” the company said.

“Our contract with GSR stated that all data must be obtained legally, and this contract is now a matter of public record. We took legal action against GSR when we found out they had breached this contract.”

The scandal has triggered increased scrutiny of Facebook’s privacy practices, including an investigation by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

The OAIC revealed in March that it was “making inquiries with Facebook to ascertain whether any personal information of Australians was involved”.

Today the acting Australian Information Commissioner and acting Privacy Commissioner, Angelene Falk, said she had launched a “formal investigation into Facebook, following confirmation from Facebook that the information of over 300,000 Australian users may have been acquired and used without authorisation”.

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