Close on the heels of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has suspended another company that allegedly harvested data from its site, BBC reported on Saturday.
Crimson Hexagon, based in Boston in the US, describes itself as a “consumer insights platform” that helps “brands analyse audiences, track perception and campaign performance, and detect industry trends”. The firm has had contracts with several government agencies across the world and Facebook is now investigating if they violated its policies.
Crimson Hexagon has “contracts to analyse public Facebook data for clients including a Russian nonprofit with ties to the Kremlin and multiple US government agencies”, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Facebook has been under intense scrutiny in the past few months after it became public that British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed private information of 87 million Facebook users. The company also failed to identify alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election in the United States.
Lawmakers of various countries had asked Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear before them to explain the data breach.
Facebook said it has not yet found any evidence that Crimson Hexagon obtained data improperly but it has suspended the company while it conducts its investigation. “We do not allow developers to build surveillance tools using information from Facebook or Instagram,” a Facebook spokesman said on Friday, according to BBC. “We take these allegations seriously, and we have suspended these apps while we investigate.”
Crimson Hexagon’s Chief Technology Officer Chris Bingham defended the company’s work in a blog post on Friday. Though he did not specifically mention Facebook’s investigation, he emphasised that Crimson Hexagon only collects publicly available social media data that anyone can access, and not private social media data.
Seeking to distance his company from the data breach scandal, he wrote: “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 added: “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.”
“The real conversation is not about a particular social media analytics provider, or even a particular social network like Facebook,” Bingham added. “It is about the broader role and use of public online data in the modern world.”