Looking relaxed and even cracking a joke about not being a Russian oligarch, Kogan talked MPs led by Damian Collins through the timeline of his involvement with Cambridge University, SCL and Facebook.
Dr Kogan is a key player in the revelations surrounding Facebook and data consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica. A researcher at the University of Cambridge, Kogan created a Facebook app in 2013 that harvested anonymous user data from the millions of Facebook users. Later he created another quiz app that collected user data with names, and sold the data on to a company called SCL with ties to controversial company Cambridge Analytica. Although he said he never had a contract with Cambridge Analytica, Kogan admitted that he worked closely with its staff including suspended CEO Alexander Nix, who has already faced the UK committee.
Among their conversations, Kogan said he and Nix discussed campaigning in UK elections.
During the inquiry, Kogan accused whistleblower Christopher Wylie of lying about their involvement. Wylie has claimed he broke off their relationship when he realised Kogan was pursuing a commercial rather than academic enterprise, which Kogan calls a “fabrication”.
. “I think that the core idea we had,” he told 60 Minutes, “that everybody knows and nobody cares, was wrong. For that, I am sincerely sorry.”
Kogan and others from the academic world are sometimes allowed access to Facebook data for the purposes of research — often in collaboration with the university itself. Kogan told the UK committee that Facebook provided anonymised data to him for academic research separately from the data sold on to SCL and Cambridge Analytica, without a signed agreement or any requirement to delete or return it. He said that Facebook later asked him to delete the anonymous data in 2015 and he did so.
After the revelations surfaced in March, Kogan said he was being made “a scapegoat” by Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, which suspended the researcher from the platform.
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