While some outlets have reported that this was the result of a breach, the social network denies this claim. In the company’s statement, Facebook VP and Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal said that the reports regarding a data breach were “completely false.”
The truth seems more complex than that.
Cambridge Analytica, which is best known for its work alongside Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, obtained the information from Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, who created an app called “thisisyourdigitallife.” The app billed itself as a personality test and was downloaded by about 270,000 people. By downloading the app, the users gave permission for the app’s developers to access information regarding the city they lived in, what kind of content they liked on Facebook, and other general information.
But by sniffing through the friends of those users, and the friends of friends, the company was able to gather up info on 50 million people in total, according to the New York Times — none of whom granted the company permission to use or even access to their data.