1.43 million Washingtonians potentially had their data shared with political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, Facebook said.
Facebook estimates data from more than a million Washington residents was shared with Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy once hired by President Donald Trump’s campaign, according to the state attorney general’s office.
The privacy scandal has engulfed Facebook for the last few months after it was discovered that the consulting firm gained access to some personal information on up to 87 million Facebook users without their explicit consent. About 1.43 million of those were likely Washington residents, according to data Facebook provided to the National Association of Attorneys General at the group’s request.
“I’m deeply troubled by what’s happened,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Monday.
Ferguson declined to comment on whether his office was investigating Facebook’s practices, saying it is department policy not to comment on the existence of investigations. He did say, “I’m in regular communication with colleagues and Facebook.”
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Several other state attorneys general have said they are investigating the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, including those from New York, Massachusetts and Missouri.
The personal information was shared through a Facebook app, “This is your digital life,” which about 300,000 people downloaded during the two years it was available, the company has said. The app, like many others on Facebook, also pulled some basic information about the downloaders’ friends.
The information was passed to Cambridge Analytica through a researcher. Facebook allows some academic researchers to access user data, but says it does not allow that information to be accessed by commercial companies.
In Washington, Facebook estimates that 7,013 Washington residents downloaded the “This is your digital life” app, and another 1.427 million Washington residents had a friend who downloaded the app, meaning their data could have been shared.
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Facebook sent estimates on the number of users affected by the misuse of their data to the National Association of Attorneys General and published it online after 37 state attorneys general sent the company a letter demanding more information about people’s information being shared without their consent.
The scandal has kicked off a worldwide debate about how digital information is protected and raised questions about whether people understand the user privacy agreements they regularly sign when using websites.
Facebook said Monday that it is suspending 200 apps from its site while it investigates whether they misused any data, as part of the company’s internal audit into its data-sharing practices. The company posted messages on its site last month informing individual users if their information could have been shared.
Cambridge Analytica announced it was shutting down operations earlier this month.
The number of people affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal in other U.S. states falls roughly in line with the states’ respective populations: California had an estimated 6.8 million people affected, New York had 4.4 million potentially impacted, and an estimated 798,959 Oregonians were affected.
Ferguson reiterated his office’s call for policies that protect people’s digital data, and pointed to Facebook’s part in the scandal.
“In this case, there was a lack of corporate responsibility here that played a key role,” he said.