Facebook Admits Millions More People Were Affected by Cambridge Analytica Breach Than Previously Known

Personal data on up to 87 million people may have been “improperly shared.”

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Facebook said Wednesday that personal data for up to 87 million people—tens of millions more than originally thought—may have been “improperly shared” with Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm that worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Most of those affected were in the United States, the company said. Facebook included the disclosure in the second-to-last paragraph of a company statement that also described new measures to restrict third-party access to user data.

Recent stories in the New York Times and the British Observer cited a former Cambridge Analytica employee, Christopher Wylie, who said that the Facebook data of more than 50 million people had been harvested and provided to Cambridge Analytica in 2014. The data was acquired, Wylie said, in the hopes of building personality-based models to target and influence voters in US elections. “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons,” Wylie, who helped launch the company, told the Observer. “That was the basis the entire company was built on.” (Wylie’s claims are now the subject of a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in federal court in northern California.) 

As we’ve reported here at Mother Jones, Cambridge Analytica was far more successful at convincing rich donors to fund its personality-driven approach to politics than it was at putting that approach into practice. Armed with reams of Facebook data as well as consumer and voter data, Cambridge worked in the 2014 and 2016 US elections, earning a reputation in Republican political circles for overpromising and underdelivering. Election records show no payments to Cambridge in the 2018 midterm cycle from political candidates or committees. One prominent political consultant recently said there was “basically a de facto blacklist” of the firm in American politics.

Facebook’s confirmation of the data breach involving Cambridge Analytica—and the increase in the number of users whose data is believed to have been acquired by Cambridge—will only ramp up the pressure on the social media giant. The controversy has already cost Facebook as much as $80 billion in market value.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11. The hearing’s topic is “the company’s use and protection of user data.”

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

TIME IS RUNNING OUT!

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and it's truly crunch time: About 15 percent of our yearly online giving usually comes in during the final week of the year, and in "No Cute Headlines or Manipulative BS," we explain why we simply can't afford to come up short right now.

The bottom line: Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism Mother Jones exists to do. And advertising or profit-driven ownership groups will never make time-intensive, in-depth reporting viable.

That's why donations big and small make up 74 percent of our budget this year. There is no backup to keep us going, no alternate revenue source, no secret benefactor. If readers don’t donate, we won’t be here. It's that simple.

And if you can help us out with a donation right now, all online gifts will be matched thanks to an incredibly generous matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate