On April 16, according to foreign media reports, the debate over how Facebook protects user data has triggered an unusual turmoil, and the social network has been openly contested with one of the oldest academic institutions in the world. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a testimony before Congress that the company will investigate whether data collection issues are beyond the scope of a Cambridge University researcher.
This remark made people notice unexpectedly that this 800-year-old academic institution is a research pioneer in the use of Facebook data, and it is involved in global disputes on digital privacy.
Facebook has said that an application developed by Cambridge University researcher Alexander & Middot; Aleksandr Kogan may have inappropriately collected data for up to 87 million users. The application was later sold to Cambridge Analytica, a company
He had worked for Trump during the 2016 presidential election and has nothing to do with Cambridge University.
However, in an interview recently, Dr. Cogan stated that he did not know that his work at Cambridge Analysis Company violated Facebook's policy and that this social media company made him a scapegoat.
Zuckerberg said in Washington that Cambridge University may have more extensive problems. Facebook has stated that it is looking for more information about the application developed by the school's Psychometrics Centre, whose research team is a pioneer in studying Facebook data.
Zuckerberg told Congress: "We have now found that there are many projects related to Cambridge University, many of which are building similar applications, not just Alexander & Middot; Aleksandr Kogan." Therefore, we need to understand whether Cambridge University has some bad things and needs us to take stronger actions. ”
A Facebook spokesperson said the company is conducting a global audit to find similar applications like Cogan developed. A statement released by Facebook last week stated that it is working with the relevant British authorities to require Cambridge University to provide “information about the development and application of its psychological measurement center.” Although Cogan worked with researchers there, he did not formally join the center.
Cambridge University is clearing itself. The agency said this week that researchers at Cambridge University have been using apps to obtain Facebook data for many years, and that Facebook is aware of this and even conducts research with Facebook employees.
Researchers around the world are using data from the world’s largest social network. Scholars said that these data have become important empirical elements in many disciplines, including sociology, political science, and economics. Oxford University scholar Vyacheslav Polonski used Facebook's data in his own research. He said: “There are almost a full range of researchers who specialize in analyzing Facebook data. ”
The Center for Psychological Measurement at the University of Cambridge was established at the University of London in 1989. One of its earliest tasks was to standardize child intelligence analysis in the United Kingdom. A few years ago, the Psychological Measurement Center was assigned to Cambridge University and funded by universities and research funds. The Center for Psychometrics has always been a pioneer in developing applications that use Facebook data to predict people's characteristics such as political and religious opinions, intelligence, and sexual orientation.
The center said that unlike Cogan’s application, its data collection technology is appropriate, and they are conducted under Facebook’s knowledge. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that the company was involved in legitimate academic research. Vesselin Popov, director of business development at the Center for Psychometrics, said: "We have been mixed up with Cogan's activities. This is harmful to us." ”
Facebook claimed to have learned in 2015 that Dr. Cogan had shared Facebook user data with outside analysts such as Cambridge Analytics in his personal forecasting application, This Is Your Digital Life, in violation of the company’s data policy.
One of the earliest applications to use Facebook data was called “myPersonality”, a Cambridge Center researchers project that allows Facebook users to conduct some personal or psychological tests and invite them to share their Facebook data. This application was published on Facebook in 2012 and collected more than 6 million test result data. The center said it shared some data with more than 200 registered scholars.
Many other applications in the psychometric center were developed on the basis of myPersonality, including “Apply Magic Sauce”, which claims to predict sexuality, religion, life satisfaction and intelligence. . Popov said that Facebook closed the application last week and did not give any explanation. Popov is the company’s coordinator and claims that the app only gets anonymous data from Facebook’s profile.
Not long ago, after the technology media CNBC unveiled an application named “YouAreWhatYouLike” that collected user information through testing and made inappropriate sharing, Facebook temporarily suspended data analysis company CubeYou from using the platform. This application was developed by CubeYou, which is managed by the Center for Psychometrics.