More than 87 million Facebook users data stolen claims ex-Cambridge Analytica employee

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LONDON: A former Cambridge Analytica employee has claimed that the number of Facebook users whose data must have been compromised by her firm may go beyond 87 million, in a testimony before a parliamentary committee in the United Kingdom.

According to a Guardian report, Brittany Kaiser told the parliamentary committee on Tuesday that Cambridge Analytica had a suite of personality quizzes designed to extract personal data from the social network.

Kaiser, testifying before the Commons digital, culture, media and sport select committee, said that Aleksandr Kogan’s 'This Is Your Digital Life' App was just one such example.

''The Kogan/GSR datasets and questionnaires were not the only Facebook-connected questionnaires and datasets which Cambridge Analytica used. I am aware in a general sense of a wide range of surveys which were done by CA or its partners, usually with a Facebook login – for example, the ‘sex compass’ quiz, '' Kaiser was quoted as telling the parliamentary committee.

Kaiser told the panel members that when she first joined the company, the creative and psychology teams, and data science teams, would work together to design some of these questionnaires, which were meant to extract data from the users.

Kaiser's testimony is likely to bring more embarrassment for Facebook, which is embattled in a scandal over the mishandling of data of millions of its users world over.

During heated hearings in Congress last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had admitted that his company also collected information from people beyond their social network use.

The latest submission made by Kaiser before the parliamentary panel comes several days after Facebook’s Chief Technology Officer, Mike Schroepfer, wrote in a blogpost earlier this month that as many as 87 million users may have had their data taken, higher than the previous estimate of 50 million.

Kaiser, while admitting that they ''were never commissioned to do this work,” suspected that Cambridge Analytica was not the only firm which collected Facebok users' data. There were others involved in it too. 

Meanwhile, a US federal judge had ruled on Monday that Facebook Inc must face a class action lawsuit alleging that the social network unlawfully used a facial recognition process on photos without user permission. 

The ruling adds to the privacy woes that have been mounting against Facebook for weeks since it was disclosed that the personal information of millions of users was harvested by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. 

US District Judge James Donato ruled in San Francisco federal court that a class action was the most efficient way to resolve the dispute over facial templates. 

Facebook said it was reviewing the ruling. "We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously," the company said in a statement. 

Facebook users sued in 2015, alleging violations of an Illinois state law about the privacy of biometric information. 

The class will consist of Facebook users in Illinois for whom Facebook created and stored facial recognition algorithms after June 7, 2011, Donato ruled. 

That is the date when Facebook launched "Tag Suggestions," a feature that suggests people to tag after a Facebook user uploads a photo. 

In the US court system, certification of a class is typically a major hurdle that plaintiffs in proposed class actions need to overcome before reaching a possible settlement or trial. 

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