Published: Sun, July 22, 2018
Finance | By Loren Pratt

Facebook suspends another data firm amid fresh probe

Facebook suspends another data firm amid fresh probe

After the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook has now suspended Boston-based data analytics company Crimson Hexagon over concerns that it harvested users' data.

In a blog posting, Crimson Hexagon Chief Technology Officer Chris Bingham said the company "abides completely" by the rules social media sites including Twitter and Facebook put in place to limit the ways third-party companies can use their data.

The Boston-based Crimson Hexagon has had contracts in recent years to analyze public Facebook data for the USA government and a Russian nonprofit tied to the Kremlin among other clients, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter and federal procurement data.

The Journal first reported Crimson Hexagon worked with a Russian nonprofit called the Civil Society Development Foundation that had Kremlin ties and used data to study people's opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a 2015 report from the group. It uses artificial intelligence and image analysis to monitor social media and provide customers with insights into public sentiment about their brands.

Facebook has said that, as of right now, the company hasn't found anything untoward in its probe of Crimson Hexagon.

"Cambridge Analytica raised alarm surrounding the potential for misuse of private Facebook data, but public data appears to be coming under increased scrutiny as well", Bingham said. "We take these allegations seriously, and we have suspended these apps while we investigate", said a Facebook spokesman.

A spokeswoman for King referred questions to Crimson Hexagon and provided a statement in which King, who is also the chairman of the company's board, said he "never had line authority or day-to-day involvement" in its operations.

"Under no circumstances is surveillance a permitted use case", Bingham wrote in the post.

Crimson Hexagon says on its website it has access to over one trillion consumer conversations from social media, forums, blogs and reviews. He noted that the Facebook data accessed by Cambridge Analytica was private. "No one using Crimson Hexagon would be able to learn anything about an individual that isn't already contained in publicly-available data".

As well as government work, Crimson Hexagon has had deals with commercial companies including Adidas, Samsung and the BBC.

"People can share their information with developers on Facebook and Instagram - just as they can when they download an app on their phone", said Ime Archibong, Facebook's head of partnerships. In addition, the social-media company offers application programming interfaces to let developers use public or aggregated information for business purposes.

The situation with Crimson Hexagon comes after revelations about info on up to 87 million Facebook users may have been improperly sold via a third-party researcher with Cambridge Analytica, a firm that worked for Donald Trump's 2016 USA presidential campaign to target Facebook users.

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