Twitter has admitted doing business with shadowy political analysis firm Cambridge Analytica too. Picture: Reuters/Kacper Pempel
Twitter has admitted doing business with shadowy political analysis firm Cambridge Analytica too. Picture: Reuters/Kacper Pempel

Social media data scandal: It’s not just Facebook

ANOTHER social network has been swept up in Facebook's biggest data scandal, with Twitter confirming it also sold information to the researcher behind the Cambridge Analytica information-harvesting debacle.

The microblogging network admitted to selling users' data to Dr Aleksandr Kogan following an internal review, but refused to reveal how much money it received for the information.

Cambridge Analytica, which was accused of using social media data to influence the 2016 US election, denied it had used the tweets harvested by Dr Kogan, but data scientists claimed they could have played a role in creating a more complete picture of Facebook users for targeted political advertising.

 

Twitter confirmed its relationship with Dr Kogan's firm Global Science Research yesterday, revealing it allowed the firm to harvest "a random sample of public tweets for a five-month period from December 2014 to April 2015".

But, in a statement, the company claimed it was not the same sort of data breach that affected Facebook because the tweets had been knowingly shared publicly.

"Based on the recent reports, we conducted our own internal review and did not find any access to private data about people who use Twitter," the company said.

"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."

Twitter regularly sells this public data to research and commercial organisations, which can use the public tweets to analyse customer service, public sentiment, or reactions to certain events.

The company raised more than $119 million from this practice in the first three months of the year, and more than $440 million last year.

Facebook faces several international inquiries, including an investigation in Australia, after handing over the private details of as many as 87 million users. Picture: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg
Facebook faces several international inquiries, including an investigation in Australia, after handing over the private details of as many as 87 million users. Picture: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg

It's not yet clear how Dr Kogan's company GSR used information gathered from Twitter, and whether it was sold like private details gathered from as many as 87 million Facebook users around the same period.

But Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly used the Facebook data to influence elections, denied it had used Twitter information from Dr Kogan.

"Cambridge Analytica has never received Twitter data from GSR or

Aleksandr Kogan, and has never done any work with GSR on Twitter data," the company said.

"GSR was only ever a contractor to Cambridge Analytica and we understand it did work for many other companies."

Regardless, Twitter will no longer allow Cambridge Analytica to book advertisements on its platform because it has "a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices," though the company will still be allowed to use its Twitter account.



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