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Facebook knew about Russian data harvesting in 2014, seized documents reveal

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By Arif Bacchus


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An internal email from a Facebook engineer obtained by a British lawmaker provides evidence that Facebook has known about Russian data harvesting since 2014, according to a report from Bloomberg. This is being seen as another blow to the company’s credibility when it comes to privacy and accountability, as Facebook previously claimed that it was not aware of any Russian interference on its platform until after 2016.

This latest email was obtained by Damian Collins, the head of a group of British lawmakers who were originally investigating the direct impact of fake news. Collins reportedly received it after he reached out and later collected Facebook documents from the founder of Six4Three, a developer that originally was involved in a lawsuit against Facebook.

The Facebook documents were originally ordered sealed by a United States judge but were partially revealed in the United Kingdom. The full scope of the documents was not immediately released, but it reportedly exposed more detail on how Russian-linked groups were collecting advertising data from Facebook in 2014.

Richard Allan, the vice president of policy solutions at Facebook, did not comment on the email or documents during a recent hearing in the United Kingdom. Facebook also tells Bloomberg that the documents were not being viewed in the proper context.

“The engineers who had flagged these initial concerns subsequently looked into this further and found no evidence of specific Russian activity,” said Facebook.

Facebook previously promised change after investigators found that 126 million Americans viewed political ads that were paid for by Russian organizations before the 2016 election. In attempts to be transparent, Facebook also shared data with Congress on over 3,000 political ads that came from fake Russian accounts during and after the 2016 election.

That might still not be enough, however, as Bloomberg reports that Canadian lawmakers still pressed Facebook’s Richard Allan on possible reasons for governments to further regulate the social media website.

This is just the latest problem for Facebook, as there have also been several data breaches that the social media giant has been contending with. Previously hackers were able to steal, and put up for sale, up to 120 million private messages through the use of unnamed rogue browser extensions. There also was a case where up to 50 million Facebook accounts were compromised due to a flaw in access tokens and the “View As” feature.


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