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The ghost of Cambridge Analytica scandal seems to be still haunting Facebook (FB), which is currently holding an investigation into the data sharing practices of its business partners. In the latest of a series of actions against associates with shady dealings, the social networking giant Friday temporarily severed ties with data analytics firm Crimson Hexagon for lack of clarity on the way it handles user data. Though Crimson is not found to have engaged in any data misappropriation, Facebook believes the vast repository of user data the company holds is a cause for concern. The fact that one of Crimson’s clients is an NGO closely linked to the Russian government calls for an extensive probe.
The tech firm divulged the details while replying to a query from Wall Street Journal over Crimson’s dealings with clients having links with the US government and Kremlin. Boston-based Crimson claims to have gathered and analyzed over one trillion text messages and photos posted on various social media sites, including Instagram, Twitter and Reddit. But, little is known about the method used for collecting and sharing them. The enormous volume of data is believed to be the largest being held by any entity in the world. In the past, Facebook had initiated similar action against some of its other partners for suspected data misuse.
What makes the information accessed by such companies vulnerable is their data-sharing contract with government agencies, which often violates Facebook’s policies. Following allegations that third-party applications often used sensitive information inappropriately, the company had suspended scores of apps that had access to user data. Facebook found itself in a tight spot earlier this year after an investigation revealed that its business partner and UK-based data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica had misused personal information of about 87 million users for financial gains. After shrugging off the disclosure initially, Facebook got serious about protecting people’s privacy and has since been plugging the loopholes one by one, including curbs on application programming interfaces. Founded by Harvard University professor Gary King more than a decade ago, Crimson has large corporates like Adidas, InBev, General Mills and General Motors as its clients.
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