Think the Cambridge Analytica scandal is over? Unfortunately, it’s not – media platform Twitter allegedly also sold data to the research company, giving them direct access to a mountain of public data for millions of users in 2015 through special programs for large-scale businesses. Twitter’s Enterprise API access makes harvesting data easier for companies like Cambridge Analytica to quickly harvest data and analyze sentiments and trends.
• Twitter did not sell access to Cambridge Analytica directly. Instead, they sold the information to one of its partner agencies, Global Science Research (GSR), under the care of Aleksandr Kogan. Kogan is the individual responsible for creating the quiz Cambridge Analytica originally used to illegally scrape data from Facebook.
• A statement from Twitter clarifies the allegations, confirming that GSR “…did have one-time API access to a random sample of public tweets from a five-month period from December 2014 to April 2015.” It sounds relatively innocuous at first, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it totally leaves out the fact that this “sample” probably contained public information for millions of users.
• Twitter is careful to assert that private data was not included in the access, suggesting that private messages and communications were not sold to the research company’s subsidiary. “Based on the recent reports, we conducted our own internal review and did not find any access to private data about people who use Twitter.”
• Twitter claims GSR didn’t do anything wrong, and did not access data they wouldn’t otherwise have access to as a standard user. But their response and behavior after the news broke is suspicious. The social media platform followed suit with Facebook, banning both Cambridge Analytica and GSR from accessing the platform and/or using their paid advertisements shortly after the news broke.
• Twitter representatives state that GSR’s access “probably” included around 30 days of tweets for the entire platform and/or tweets stretching as far back as 2006. It is not yet known exactly how much data the API provided. The platform does not inform users when their information is accessed, nor does it tell Twitter users how they can opt out of such access in the future.
• Like Facebook, Twitter is taking steps to secure even publicly accessible data from harmful use. The platform claims they have removed nearly 142,000 enterprise API data users and now requests that businesses explain how they plan to utilize data before granting access. However, many experts question whether it’s enough. Evidence shows that API users like Cambridge Analytica abused public Twitter data to create at least 130 million “low-quality” viral tweets during the Trump campaign.