It has emerged that Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy firm at the center of a data misuse storm involving Facebook user data, has also been banned from advertising on Twitter’s platform.
Facebook suspended the company’s account in March after fresh revelations were published about how user data had been passed to the company by a developer on its platform — although the Guardian newspaper originally linked the firm to Facebook data in a story published in December 2015.
A Twitter spokesperson confirmed to us what the company describes as a “policy decision to off-board advertising from all accounts owned and operated by Cambridge Analytica on advertising”, adding the decision was taken “weeks” ago.
“This decision is based on our determination that Cambridge Analytica operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices. Cambridge Analytica may remain an organic user on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules,” the company spokesperson added.
The move is unrelated to reports yesterday that Twitter had sold public user data to Dr Aleksandr Kogan — the Cambridge University academic who sold Facebook data to Cambridge Analytica in 2014, after harvesting it via an app that drew on Facebook’s APIs to pull information on users and their friends.
Last month Kogan told a UK parliamentary committee he had subsequently used some of the money Cambridge Analytica had paid him for gathering and processing the Facebook data to buy some Twitter data, though he said he had intended to use that for his own purposes, not for selling to others.
On this, Twitter’s spokesperson also told us: “Based on the recent reports, we conducted our own internal review and did not find any access to any private data about people who use Twitter. Unlike many other services, Twitter is public by its nature. People come to Twitter to speak publicly, and public Tweets are viewable and searchable by anyone. In 2015, GSR [Kogan’s comapny] did have one-time API access to a random sample of public Tweets from a five-month period from December 2014 to April 2015.”
Cambridge Analytica has also denied undertaking a project with Kogan’s company that used Twitter data.
Although the company has also continued to deny it received Facebook data — despite the existence of a 2014 contract between the company and Kogan to gather data; and despite Kogan’s own insistences that his app harvested Facebook user data.
Facebook has also said as many as 87 million users could have had some of their information harvested by Kogan and passed to Cambridge Analytica.
In a blog post late last month Twitter reiterated some of the policies it has in place to limit access to public Twitter data — even when a developer is paying for it, as Kogan was.
“We prohibit developers from inferring or deriving sensitive information like race or political affiliation, or attempts to match a user’s Twitter information with other personal identifiers in unexpected ways,” it wrote, flagging the Restricted Uses page for more info on types of behaviors it said are not tolerated, and adding: “Developers who are found to be in violation of our policies are subject to enforcement actions, including immediate termination.”
Despite barring Cambridge Analytica from running ads on its platform, Twitter has not suspended the company’s verified Twitter account — which the company continues to use to tweet denials related to the Facebook data misuse scandal.