NEWS18 March 2019

Academic at centre of Cambridge Analytica scandal sues Facebook

News Privacy Technology UK

US – Aleksandr Kogan, the academic who created a quiz app that allowed Cambridge Analytica to harvest Facebook users’ personal data, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the social network, the New York Times has reported.

Cracked phone screen showing Facebook logo alonsgide laptop and glasses

Kogan argued that Facebook defamed him when it said he had lied about how the data collected via the survey app was going to be used. According to the New York Times, Kogan said that the fine print of the app said the information could be used commercially.

"Alex did not lie, Alex was not a fraud, Alex did not deceive them, this was not a scam," Steve Cohen, a lawyer for Kogan, said, the Times reported. "Facebook knew exactly what this app was doing, or should have known. Facebook desperately needed a scapegoat, and Alex was their scapegoat."

In a statement, Liz Bourgeois, a Facebook spokesperson, described the action as a "frivolous lawsuit" from someone who had "violated our policies and put people’s data at risk".

The news comes a year after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal was first reported in the Observer.

Separately, Facebook is also facing new questions over when it learned about users’ personal data being harvested, according to a report in the Observer. The paper reports claims that Marc Andreessen, Facebook board member and founder of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, attended a meeting with Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie during the summer of 2016.  

Facebook is also reportedly under investigation from federal prosecutors over data-sharing deals it made with more than 150 tech firms. According to the New York Times, most of the partnerships have ended over the past few years, but when active gave the businesses access to data outside its standard privacy rules. "We are cooperating with investigators and take those probes seriously," a Facebook spokesperson said. "We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions and pledged that we will continue to do so."