A whistleblower is claiming that the exploitation of Facebook accounts by Donald Trump's campaign data firm, Cambridge Analytics, is 185 times larger than the company revealed on Friday night.
Trump strategist Steve Bannon was a vice president at Cambridge Analytica during the time in question, a company partially owned by billionaire Robert Mercer.
The Observer of London Sunday newspaper, the sister paper of The Guardian, sought comment for a story on the scandal four days before Facebook's suspension of Cambridge Analytics. The story involved allegations from whistleblower Christopher Wylie.
“We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons," Wylie explained. "That was the basis that the entire company was built on.”
The Observer viewed "a dossier of evidence" showing that Facebook "had found out that information had been harvested on an unprecedented scale" yet failed to alert users.
The British newspaper partnered with The New York Times in reporting on the whistleblower's allegations.
The scale of the data breach is staggering. Facebook's Friday statement suggested approximately 270,000 accounts were impacted while the Observer is now reporting that 50,000,000 accounts could have been compromised. The Times reported the 50 million number was confirmed in a company email.
The timeline may also shed light on the how Facebook was exploited during the 2016 presidential campaign.
"The evidence he supplied to authorities in the UK and US includes a letter from Facebook’s own lawyers sent to him in August 2016, asking him to destroy any data he held that had been collected," the Observer explained. "That legal letter was sent several months after the Guardian first reported the breach and days before it was officially announced that Bannon was taking over as campaign manager for Trump and bringing Cambridge Analytica with him."
“Rules don’t matter for them," the whistleblower told The New York Times. "For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.”
“They want to fight a culture war in America,” he continued. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”