Facebook gave a Russian firm with Kremlin ties an extension on data collection

Facebook data collection scandal

Hmmm, the Facebook data collection scandal just got more interesting.

It turns out that one of the 61 companies that got an extension to collect certain kinds of data was a Russian tech firm with ties to the Kremlin.

Before 2015, apps like This Is Your Digital Life — the source of Cambridge Analytica‘s data on 87 million people — could collect information on the friends of their users.

Basically, if you used an app, the developers could see what your friends “liked” even if they weren’t users. Facebook banned the practice in May 2015, but as it revealed to Congress several weeks ago in 700 pages of written responses, it gave some apps an extension.

Now, Facebook has revealed to Wired and CNN that two of those apps were from Mail.ru Group, which is owned by a company founded by Alisher Usmanov, a billionaire on the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of oligarchs with ties to Putin. Mail.ru was founded by Yuri Milner, a major investor in Facebook who once advised former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

Facebook says during the two-week extension, those apps only collected lists of friends, as opposed to more detailed information such as “likes.” Mail.ru did, however, run hundreds of other apps on Facebook which operated under the platform’s old rules before May 2015.

In a statement to CNN, Facebook said, “Mail.ru, one of the top five largest internet companies in the world, has built apps for the Facebook platform and for other major platforms, including iOS and Android for years. We’ve found no indication of misuse with Mail.ru. If we find misuse, we ban the developers.”

But that probably won’t quiet critics. Mark Warner, the Democratic senator from Virginia, has already called for an inquiry into what “user information was shared with Mail.ru and what may have been done with the captured data.”

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