Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Facebook suspends Boston analytics firm Crimson Hexagon over data usage

Facebook suspends analytics firm over data collection Modal Trigger Getty Images
Priscilla Morrison | 22 July, 2018, 05:54

Facebook has been facing increased scrutiny over how third-party firms use its data since news broke in March that data firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed user data.

According to the WSJ, "Crimson Hexagon pulls only publicly available data from Facebook and Twitter".

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that it alerted Facebook to Crimson Hexagon's business dealings with a Russian nonprofit organization-the Civil Society Development Foundation-with ties to the Kremlin.

"Facebook has a responsibility to help protect people's information which is one of the reasons why we have tightened our APIs significantly over the last few years", Ime Archibong, Facebook's vice president of product partnerships, said in a statement. "We take these allegations seriously, and we have suspended these apps while we investigate".

The social media giant said Crimson Hexagon is cooperating with its investigation and that it plans to meet with the company's staff in the coming days.

Facebook has been working to restore public trust in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, which revealed millions of users' private information had been harvested, and used to build software to predict and influence the 2016 election.

At the time, Facebook did not define what it meant by surveillance. "It is about the broader role and use of public online data in the modern world".

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Facebook was unable to clarify whether it would count as surveillance if an authoritarian state leader's marketing wing sought to find out how his or her brand was perceived by dissidents.

Crimson Hexagon was founded in 2007 by Gary King, director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University.

In a blog entry posted by the firm on Friday, its chief technology officer Chris Bingham defended the company's work - without specifically mentioning Facebook's investigation.

In fact, Crimson Hexagon pays Twitter for access to a large amount of tweets; considering that Facebook has restrictions on the amount of data that can be collected by third parties, Crimson Hexagon collects more data from Twitter than from Facebook. Bingham also wrote that the company carefully vetted government clients.

Users of Crimson Hexagon's platform, which include government customers, analyse the data to understand large-scale consumer trends and preferences, Mr Bingham wrote. For now, the company's Facebook and Instagram accounts are frozen.

According to public information about US government contracts, Crimson Hexagon has received contacts for more than $800,000 for various government agencies, including the state department, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the army, and the US Secret Service. Word that Crimson Hexagon's clientele has connections to the Kremlin comes just days after we learned that the massive Facebook data set Cambridge Analytica gathered was accessed by someone in Russian Federation.

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