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Academic Behind Cambridge Analytica Data Mining Sues Facebook for Defamation

WASHINGTON — The academic who helped Cambridge Analytica vacuum up private information from tens of millions of Facebook profiles sued the social media giant on Friday, arguing that the company defamed him when it claimed he had lied about how the data was going to be used.Since the full scope of Cambridge Analytica’s data mining was revealed last year, Facebook has repeatedly tried to shift blame for the privacy breach onto the academic, Aleksandr Kogan. Facebook executives — including the chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg — have said Mr. Kogan told Facebook that the data was for academic purposes when it was being collected for use in political…

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Facebook’s Data Deals Are Under Criminal Investigation

Federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook struck with some of the world’s largest technology companies, intensifying scrutiny of the social media giant’s business practices as it seeks to rebound from a year of scandal and setbacks.A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, according to two people who were familiar with the requests and who insisted on anonymity to discuss confidential legal matters. Both companies had entered into partnerships with Facebook, gaining broad access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users.The companies were among more than…

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The Man Deciding Facebook’s Fate

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission has no shortage of critics who say it cannot protect Americans from the prying eyes of Big Tech. Instead of forceful action against the likes of Facebook and Google, they say, the F.T.C. leans on a rules that make it hard to impose penalties bigger than rounding errors for the companies.Those critics have an unusual champion: Joseph J. Simons, the man running the agency.“We have this over 100-year-old statute that is our main authority,” Mr. Simons said in his first sit-down interview since becoming chairman 10 months ago. “And clearly legislators who approved that were not thinking about data security and…

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F.T.C. Is Said to Be Considering Large Facebook Fines

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission is in the advanced stages of its investigation into whether Facebook violated privacy rules and is expected to seek large fines from the company, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.The five members of the commission met in mid-December to discuss the investigation, according to the people, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is not public. The meeting is a sign that the investigation is far along, the people said, because the commissioners rarely meet in the early stages of an inquiry.The investigation, which began in late March, is continuing, and the commissioners and…

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Why the F.T.C. Is Taking a New Look at Facebook Privacy

ImageFacebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, testifying early this year on Capitol Hill. The company agreed to overhaul its privacy practices about seven years ago.CreditSaul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesAfter a yearlong string of news reports that have called Facebook’s data-sharing practices into question, federal regulators are taking a hard look at how the social media company handles the personal information of its users.It is not the first time Facebook has drawn government scrutiny. About seven years ago, after charges were leveled by the Federal Trade Commission, the company made an agreement with the agency to overhaul its privacy practices. That agreement, called a consent decree, provides a…

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Cambridge Analytica Used Fashion Tastes to Identify Right-Wing Voters

You’ve heard of profiling criminals, but welcome to fashion profiling — the practice of classifying and targeting individuals based on their clothing brand preferences. Fashion profiling played a bigger role in the 2016 American presidential election than anyone realized, according to new information from Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower. Today at a conference in Britain organized by the fashion industry website The Business of Fashion, Mr. Wylie explained that clothing preferences were a key metric for Cambridge Analytica, whose business was constructing and selling voter profiles drawn from Facebook data.“Fashion data was used to build AI models to help Steve Bannon build his insurgency and build…

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Facebook Fallout Ruptures Democrats’ Longtime Alliance With Silicon Valley

The alliance between Democrats and Silicon Valley has buckled and bent this year amid revelations that platforms like Facebook and Twitter allowed hateful speech, Russian propaganda and conservative-leaning “fake news” to flourish. But those tensions burst into open warfare this past week after revelations that Facebook executives had withheld evidence of Russian activity on the platform for far longer than previously disclosed, while employing a Republican-linked opposition research firm to discredit critics and the billionaire George Soros, a major Democratic Party patron.Democrats now face a painful reckoning with longtime friends in the tech industry, relationships girded by mutual interest in issues like immigration and cemented with millions…

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How Facebook Wrestled With Scandal: 6 Key Takeaways From The Times’s Investigation

For more than a year, Facebook has endured cascading crises — over Russian misinformation, data privacy and abusive content — that transformed the Silicon Valley icon into an embattled giant accused of corporate overreach and negligence.An investigation by The New York Times revealed how Facebook fought back against its critics: with delays, denials and a full-bore campaign in Washington. Here are six takeaways.Facebook knew about Russian interferenceIn fall 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, was publicly declaring it a “crazy idea” that his company had played a role in deciding the election. But security experts at the company already knew otherwise. They found signs as early as…

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British Watchdog Finds Cambridge Analytica and Brexit Financier Misused Private Data

LONDON — The defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica violated British law when it used improperly harvested Facebook data to aid Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and would face a significant fine if it were not already in bankruptcy, Britain’s top data protection watchdog found Tuesday.The long-awaited report by Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office, which has been investigating the misuse of personal data by political campaigns, also said an insurance company owned by Arron Banks, a main backer of Britain’s campaign to leave the European Union, broke British law when it used customer data to aid the Brexit effort.According to the commissioner’s office, the company, Eldon Insurance,…

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Feature: The Unlikely Activists Who Took On Silicon Valley — and Won

In early 2014, Pritzker traveled to Silicon Valley for a highly publicized listening tour. She hailed the tech industry as a model for government — a partner, not an antagonist. Data, she proclaimed, was “the fuel of the 21st century.” Pritzker’s tour included visits to eBay, Google and the Menlo Park campus of Facebook, where she met again with Sandberg. The women discussed an array of issues, including consumer privacy and how to ensure that American tech businesses remained competitive around the world. Two former Obama administration officials told me that those conversations appeared to have shaped Pritzker’s early views on privacy. “Our goal at the Department…

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