Academic behind Facebook breach says he is a ‘scapegoat’

Facebook has been rocked this week by a whistleblower who said that Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based political firm hired by Trump for the 2016 campaign, had improperly accessed information on 50 million Facebook users. (Reuters)
Updated 21 March 2018
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Academic behind Facebook breach says he is a ‘scapegoat’

LONDON: A Cambridge University academic who harvested data on millions of Facebook users said he has been made a scapegoat by the social network and a UK-based political consultancy that is accused of trying to sway public opinion for Donald Trump.
Facebook has been rocked this week by a whistleblower who said that Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based political firm hired by Trump for the 2016 campaign, had improperly accessed information on 50 million Facebook users.
The company has lost $60 billion of its stock market value over the last two days over fears that its dealings with Cambridge Analytica might damage its reputation, deter advertisers and invite tougher regulation.
Facebook has said the data was harvested by Aleksandr Kogan, a psychology academic, who created an app on the platform that was downloaded by 270,000 people. It says he then violated its policies by passing the data to Cambridge Analytica.
“The events of the past week have been a total shell shock,” Kogan told the BBC. “My view is that I’m being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica when... we thought we were doing something that was really normal.
“We were assured by Cambridge Analytica that everything was perfectly legal and within the terms of service.”
Alexander Nix, the head of Cambridge Analytica who was suspended on Tuesday, said in a secretly recorded video that his company had played a decisive role in Trump’s election victory.
But Kogan said the accuracy of the dataset had been “exaggerated” by Cambridge Analytica, and that the information was more likely to hurt Trump’s campaign.


WhatsApp to limit message forwarding

This photo illustration shows an Indian newspaper vendor reading a newspaper with a full back page advertisement from WhatsApp intended to counter fake information, in New Delhi on July 10, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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WhatsApp to limit message forwarding

  • Indians forward more messages, photos and videos than any other country in the world

NEW DELHI: WhatsApp announced curbs on its service in India on Friday in an effort to stop a spate of horrific lynchings and to assuage government threats of legal action in its biggest market.
More than 20 people have been killed by mobs in the past two months across the country after being accused of child kidnapping and other crimes in viral messages circulated on WhatsApp.
The Facebook-owned firm said on Friday that in India it will test limiting the ability of users to forward messages, and will also experiment with a lower limit of five chats at once.
It addition, it said it will “remove the quick forward button next to media messages,” a statement said.
“We believe that these changes — which we’ll continue to evaluate — will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app,” it added.
Under pressure from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, the firm had already announced new features to help users identify messages that have been forwarded.
WhatsApp had also bought full-page adverts in Indian newspapers with tips on how to spot misinformation.
But in a strongly worded statement released late Thursday, India’s information technology ministry said the action taken was not enough.
“Rampant circulation of irresponsible messages in large volumes on their platform have not been addressed adequately by WhatsApp,” the ministry said.
“When rumors and fake news get propagated by mischief-mongers, the medium used for such propagation cannot evade responsibility and accountability,” it said.
“If (WhatsApp) remain mute spectators they are liable to be treated as abettors and thereafter face consequent legal action.”