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.


India court reverses TikTok app restrictions

Updated 25 April 2019
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India court reverses TikTok app restrictions

  • It is already banned in neighboring Bangladesh and was hit with an enormous fine in the US
  • The case against TikTok was launched by an activist group that said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography

NEW DELHI: An Indian court has reversed a decision that ordered Google and Apple to take down Chinese-owned video app TikTok over the spread of pornographic material, local media said.
The controversial but wildly popular app allows users to upload and share short 15 second clips from their phones and claims to have 500 million users worldwide — more than 120 million of them in India.
It is already banned in neighboring Bangladesh and was hit with an enormous fine in the United States for illegally collecting information from children.
The Wednesday ruling by the Madras High Court in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state requires the popular platform to prevent “obscene videos” from being posted.
“(The court) warned if any controversial video violating its conditions were found uploaded using the app, it would be considered a contempt of court,” a report by the Press Trust of India agency said.
On April 16, India’s government demanded Google and Apple remove the service from its app stores, though the order did not stop those who had already downloaded the app from using it.
The case against TikTok was launched by an activist group that said the app encouraged paedophiles and pornography.
India’s government told the court on Wednesday that they had formed a committee to suggest ways to regulate apps like TikTok, PTI said.
TikTok told the court that they had removed around six million controversial videos from the platform since the order was announced banning new downloads last week.
The app hit the headlines in India earlier in April after a 19-year-old man was accidentally shot dead by a friend in Delhi as they posed with a pistol to make a video on the platform.
TikTok has become a major rival to Facebook, Instagram and other social network sites among teenaged smartphone users in the past year.
Bangladesh banned TikTok in February as part of a clampdown on Internet pornography.
The same month, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said a $5.7 million fine ordered against the company was the largest imposed in a child privacy investigation.
The social network failed to obtain parental consent from underage users as required by the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, FTC officials said.