Facebook Investigates Crimson Hexagon After Surveillance Allegation

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Facebook temporarily suspends another data analytics firm over data policy concerns

Facebook is investigating another social media analytics company over alleged breaches of the social network’s data policies.

The firm being probed is Boston-based Crimson Hexagon, which in 2016 talked to Silicon UK about how marketing agencies can use social media data to back up their campaign ideas.

But now the firm is being investigated by Facebook, after the Wall Street Journal queried its contracts with the US government and a Russian non-profit organisation as being potentially in breach of the social network’s policies.

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Policy violation?

Facebook is especially sensitive to these types of charges after the Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal caused it no end of trouble earlier this year.

And now the social network has confirmed a probe of Crimson Hexagon.

“We are investigating the claims about Crimson Hexagon to see if they violated any of our policies,” a Facebook spokesperson is quoted by various media outlets as saying.

“Based on our investigation to date, Crimson Hexagon did not obtain any Facebook or Instagram information inappropriately,” said Facebook. “They are cooperating and our teams will meet this week to investigate further.”

It is reported that whilst the investigation continues, Crimson Hexagon has been suspended from accessing Facebook’s APIs.

The firm responded on Friday (20 July) in a blog post by Crimson Hexagon’s chief technology officer Chris Bingham.

In the post he explained how his company approaches social media collection, but did not specifically address the Facebook investigation.

Public data only

“Crimson Hexagon only collects publicly available social media data that anyone can access,” he stressed in the blog post. “Crimson Hexagon does not collect private social media data.”

“Cambridge Analytica raised alarm surrounding the potential for misuse of private Facebook data, but public data appears to be coming under increased scrutiny as well,” he wrote. “To be abundantly clear: What Cambridge Analytica did was explicitly illegal, while the collection of public data is completely legal and sanctioned by the data providers that Crimson engages with, including Twitter and Facebook, among others.”

“Crimson Hexagon, like all global organisations that gain access to public or private customer data, continues to evolve its data handling policies in accordance with GDPR and other regulations created to champion consumer privacy and choice,” Bingham wrote. “We are working closely with our data providers and our customers to ensure full compliance as these requirements as the needs and expectations of consumers around data privacy evolve.”

And it insisted any government customers are routinely vetted and it declines those “whose use cases would violate data partners’ policies.”

“Crimson Hexagon, as well as our data providers, routinely vets all potential government customers that inquire about the platform and will decline potential customers with use cases that would violate policies of our data partners, like Twitter,” wrote Bingham.

“Government contracts comprise a very small part of Crimson’s customer base, and US government contracts in particular are publicly disclosed,” he concluded.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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