One of the key players in the scandal surrounding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica says involved parties are lying. Speaking to a hearing in front of MPs led by Damian Collins, Aleksandr Kogan told the government officials Cambridge Analytica's boss lied about the situation.
Kogan is a researcher at the University of Cambridge who built a Facebook app in 2013. The application took data from users anonymously, affecting millions of members of the social network. He also built a quiz-taking app that took usernames. Data was sold to a company called SCL, which is linked to Cambridge Analytica.
Kogan says he was never contracted by Cambridge Analytica, but he did work with its staff. This included Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix. Kogan looked relaxed as he accused Nix and Christopher Wylie (the SCL whistleblower who started the scandal) of lying about their relationship.
Nix had previously met the government enquiry panel and Kogan says he spoke “total fabrication”. Regarding Wylie, Kogan says he “invented many things” in his testimony.
Discussing his relationship with Nix, he said the talked about elections in the United Kingdom. Despite this, Kogan believed the data scraping had no effect on the 2016 US Presidential race, which was won by Donald Trump. He also claims no knowledge that the apps would be used for targeted advertising on Facebook. Indeed, he deemed the accusation his apps would be accurate for such advertising as “scientifically ridiculous” and “a colossal waste of time and money”.
Nix has been described varyingly, with some believing he is a “bond-villain” level mastermind, while others deem him nothing more than a well-tailored salesman. Wylie said Nix had no tech savvy, but he also did not care if Cambridge Analytica broke laws. It was more important elections were won for clients, Wylie said of Nix's approach.
As for Facebook, the company is still in damage control. It is known 83 million users were affected by the scandal. Yesterday, the social network debuted a tool that lets people find out if their data was taken by the Kogan-built apps.
If your account was not affected, you will see the following messages:
“Based on our available records, neither you nor your friends logged into ‘This Is Your Digital Life.' As a result, it doesn't appear your Facebook information was shared with Cambridge Analytica by ‘This Is Your Digital Life.'”
If it was affected, you will find this message:
“A small number of people who logged into “This is Your Digital Life” also shared their own News Feed, timeline, posts, and messages which may have included posts and messages from you.”