Facebook says it has suspended an analytical firm with alleged ties to Russia as it investigates how the firm assembles and shares information it gets from the social network’s users.
Facebook on July 20 said it has so far not found evidence that Massachusetts-based Crimson Hexagon obtained information inappropriately from Facebook or Instagram, which it also owns, but that the probe is ongoing.
Crimson Hexagon has had contracts to analyze public Facebook data for clients that include a Russian nonprofit called the Civil Society Development Fund, which has ties to the Kremlin, and several U.S. government agencies, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
According to the newspaper, the Civil Society Development Fund used Crimson Hexagon's information to study Russian public opinion about the government of President Vladimir Putin.
The firm also concluded 22 separate contracts worth more than $800,000 with several U.S. government agencies since 2014.
The WSJ quoted Facebook as saying it was not aware of some of the contracts.
Crimson Hexagon describes itself as the world’s largest repository of social media posts, with some 1 trillion posts from sites that also include Twitter.
Multiple news agency reported that the firm did not respond to a request for comment.
The WSJ said, however, that Chris Bingham, Crimson Hexagon’s chief technology officer, said in a statement earlier in the week that it abides by the policies of its social media partners and does “not collect private data from social media providers or anyone else.”
Facebook has been facing increasing pressure after a whistle-blower claimed that data from some 50 million users had been improperly harvested by a third-party app and given to Britain-based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which had been hired by Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.
Cambridge Analytica, which ceased operations in May, denied it improperly exploited the data to help Trump in the election.