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Facebook blocks SCL, Cambridge Analytica over unauthorized data access

Facebook Inc. suspended the accounts of British company Strategic Communication Laboratories and its political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica LLC, as well as Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, for violating the platform's personal data policies.

The move came after Facebook learned that not all user data illegitimately passed on by University of Cambridge Professor Aleksandr Kogan to SCL/Cambridge Analytica had been destroyed after the violation was discovered in 2015.

The social media company discovered in 2015 that Kogan transferred data, which was generated from an app using a Facebook login, to SCL/Cambridge Analytica, Facebook Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Paul Grewal said March 16.

Kogan, via app thisisyourdigitallife, requested and gained access to about 270,000 app users' profiles.

However, The New York Times reported March 17 that a data breach at Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to acquire the private information of more than 50 million people, which reportedly helped in the 2016 election campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Facebook responded by updating its statement, saying "the claim that this is a data breach is completely false."

Accessing user information is legitimate, Grewal said, but Kogan violated Facebook's rules by transferring information to third-party groups and individuals, including SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Eunoia Technologies' Wylie.

Upon discovery of the unauthorized data transfer in 2015, Facebook said it removed the app that offers personality prediction from the platform and demanded certifications from Kogan and all involved parties that the information had been destroyed.

The company is now "moving aggressively" to verify reports it had received regarding the data that were supposed to have been deleted.

Facebook, in light of the enforcement of the European Union's new General Data Protection Regulation in May, announced in January that it will introduce a privacy center globally to make it easier for users to manage their data. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also said it plans to increase the number of people overseeing user security to 20,000 by the end of 2018.