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How Amazon Helped Cambridge Analytica Harvest Americans’ Facebook Data

In yet another development in the unfolding saga of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica’s activities – the following via Fast Company: How Amazon Helped Cambridge Analytica Harvest Americans’ Facebook Data“Facebook has been rocked by reports of a massive data scrape carried out by Cambridge Analytica and one of its then-contractors, a Cambridge University academic named Aleksandr Kogan. Kogan claims that the data he collected from thousands of Facebook users and their friends—amounting to data on over 50 million users—abided by Facebook’s terms; Cambridge Analytica promises it deleted the data; and Facebook is auditing everyone it can for signs of the data. But while Facebook provided the original data, it wasn’t the only vehicle for Kogan’s app. Kogan acquired what he wanted from individual people—over 240,000 over a six-month period—recruiting them and paying them for their quiz answers and data using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk micro-work platform and Qualtrics, a survey platform. The two platforms are often used by companies to conduct experiments and surveys and by academic researchers to, for instance, recruit psychology subjects. Research ethics require that scientists only gather people’s data for specified uses with their explicit consent, and Amazon’s polices prohibit tasks from harvesting people’s Facebook data. At the time, multiple survey-takers took to a message board, Turkopticon, to report the quiz for violating of Amazon’s Terms of Service. The company eventually booted Kogan from its platform in 2015–over a year later–after learning from a Guardian article that he had passed the data to Cambridge Analytica…”

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