Facebook may sue the man who sold data one of his personality quizzes harvested from tens of millions of users to Cambridge Analytica in 2014, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday. During today’s hearing with the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Congressman Eliot Engel asked the multi-billionaire whether the firm is planning to litigate against one Aleksandr Kogan, a USSR-born psychologist and data scientist who collaborated with the American political consulting firm at the center of Facebook’s latest scandal and broke the social media platform’s Terms of Service in the process of doing so. “It’s something we’re considering,” Mr. Zuckerberg responded, without elaborating on the matter.
Mr. Kogan recently asserted he’s being used as a scapegoat for the controversy, having claimed Cambridge Analytica assured him that harvesting user data and using it for commercial purposes is something that thousands of other app developers on Facebook are doing or have been doing up until four years ago. The social media giant forbade that practice a year later and asked the consulting firm to delete the improperly harvested data, after which it received legal assurances Cambridge Analytica complied with the request, according to Mr. Zuckerberg and a last week’s statement from COO Sheryl Sandberg. Recent reports indicate the firm may not have purged all of the data until this year, with Cambridge Analytica now being set to be subjected to a voluntary forensic audit of its servers meant to investigate those claims. While Mr. Kogan said he only sold data on some 30 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica, Facebook itself claims that number goes up to 87 million, with Mr. Zuckerberg revealing his own data was harvested and used for profit as part of the incident.
The issue stems from the fact that while only around 270,000 users gave Mr. Kogan’s quiz the permission to scrap their profiles for information, the app also did so for all of their friends, thus harvesting data on tens of millions of users who had no knowledge of that activity and haven’t consented to it. Whistleblower Christopher Wylie who used to work for the consulting firm accused it of taking advantage of the mined data to assist the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election but the company repeatedly denied that notion. As part of the same hearing, Mr. Zuckerberg refused to label Facebook as “a media company” and said he doesn’t understand what changing the firm’s business model to protect the privacy of its individual users “means” when asked about the matter by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo.