Senator wants Congress to investigate Trump 2016 data firm

Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) called for Congress to hold hearings about recent reports that alleged that Cambridge Analytica, a political data analytics company that worked for President Donald Trump during the 2016 election, harvested data from more than 50 million Facebook users.

Markey, who sent a letter to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said “only a fraction of the users” gave consent for their Facebook information to be given to a third party.

“Today, Americans’ personal data online is a valuable commodity for commercial and political interests alike,” Markey wrote in the letter. “As companies seek information about internet users’ behavior in order to gain insights that may inform strategic decision-making, Americans’ online privacy has become increasingly vulnerable.”

Late last week, reports said Cambridge Analytica—which is owned by Republican mega-donor Robert Mercer and where Steve Bannon also worked—harvested Facebook data to help target voters for Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

The analytics firm acquired the data through a researcher who claimed he was collecting information for academic purposes, according to the New York Times. Facebook said the researcher, Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, “lied” to them about his intents, and that it suspended Cambridge Analytica from the social media platform.

“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,” Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie told The Observer. “That was the basis that the entire company was built on.”

Markey said the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation should “move quickly” to hold a hearing about Cambridge Analytica and Facebook arguing that a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) decree requires Facebook to “obtain explicit permission before sharing data about its users.”

You can read all of Markey’s letter to the committee here.