NEWS12 April 2018

Facebook CEO says company looking into Cambridge University

Data analytics News North America Privacy Technology UK

US – Facebook is considering whether to investigate the University of Cambridge, according to chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Person holding phone with Facebook login screen

Speaking on the second day of US congressional hearings, Zuckerberg said: "What we found now is that there’s a whole programme associated with Cambridge University where … there were a number of other researchers building similar apps.

"We do need to understand whether there is something bad going on at Cambridge University overall that will require a stronger action from us."

A spokesman for Cambridge responded to the Facebook chief executive’s comments by saying it would be "surprised" if Zuckerberg was only now aware of the university’s research.

The spokesman told the BBC in a statement: "Our researchers have been publishing such research since 2013 in major peer-reviewed scientific journals, and these studies have been reported widely in international media.

"These have included one study in 2015 led by Dr Aleksandr Spectre (Kogan) and co-authored by two Facebook employees.

"We have found no evidence that University researchers are improperly gathering personal data."

Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan created the personality survey app thisisyourdigitallife. The data collected from the app was then allegedly passed to data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook itself is under scrutiny as it emerged that the personal data of 87 million users may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, up from the 50 million previously estimated by media reports. This week, the social network began notifying users whose data had been improperly obtained.  

Zuckerberg was questioned by senators on issues including users’ data privacy during the two-day congressional hearing, but avoided answering some questions by saying that he would ask his team to get back to representatives with more information. He did, however, concede that ‘some sort of regulation’ would be inevitable for the platform. 

Cambridge Analytica has repeatedly any wrongdoing.