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Facebook fears government-tied firm abused user info

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares for testimony on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2018. (NBC video screenshot)

Facebook announced Friday it is suspending its contracts with a Boston-based analytics firm to investigate whether the company violated the social-media giant’s policies regarding the use of members’ public data.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, the Wall Street Journal reported the firm, Crimson Hexagon, has analyzed data for clients that include U.S. government agencies and a Russian nonprofit with ties to the Kremlin.

Crimson Hexagon says it has a repository of more than 1 trillion public social media posts from sites that also include Twitter and Instagram.

After it pulls public data from Facebook, Crimson Hexagon operates with little oversight from the social-media company, the Wall Street Journal said.

After the Journal asked Facebook about its oversight of Crimson Hexagon’s government contracts and its storing of user data, Facebook said Friday it wasn’t aware of some of the contracts.

Later Friday, Facebook said it was suspending Crimson Hexagon’s apps from Facebook and its Instagram unit to investigate how Crimson Hexagon collects, shares and stores user data, the Journal reported.

The development comes after the data firm Cambridge Analytica was discovered to have gained unauthorized access to up to 87 million Facebook users’ data, mainly in the United States.

Chris Bingham, Crimson Hexagon’s chief technology officer, said in a statement earlier this week, the Journal reported, that it abides by the policies of its social-media partners and the company does not collect private data.

On Friday, however, Bingham said his company is fully cooperating with Facebook and “working together to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

Crimson Hexagon pulls only publicly-available data from Facebook and Twitter, the Wall Street Journal said.

However, the company appears at least once to have mistakenly received private data from Instagram, people familiar with the matter told the Journal.

At a House hearing in April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled about Facebook’s use of members data, insisting the company had learned from the mistakes of the Cambridge Analytica fiasco and had implemented new measures to protect users’ information and privacy.

On Tuesday, WND reported, noting Facebook’s recent blocking of a post of the Declaration of Independence as “hate speech,” House Republicans held a hearing with representatives of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter on the suppression of conservative viewpoints on social-media platforms.

At the April hearing, Zuckerberg acknowledged Silicon Valley is “an extremely left-leaning place” while maintaining his company is a neutral platform for ideas.