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Photo: Jaap Arriens / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The data firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked with the Trump campaign leading up to the 2016 election, used personal information from 50 million Facebook profiles of U.S. voters to build a system to predict and influence choices at the polls, according to investigations from The New York Times and The Observer newspaper in Britain.

Why it matters: This is reportedly one of the largest instances ever of Facebook data being exposed. The social media giant, which is already grappling with mounting criticism over the dissemination of fake news and Russian propaganda to influence the 2016 presidential election on its platform, will certainly face more scrutiny.

The backdrop: The reports on Saturday comes after Facebook announced Friday that it has suspended Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) and its affiliate Cambridge Analytica for "violating our platform policies."

The details: The data firm reportedly paid a University of Cambridge professor to acquire the personal information via a Facebook app. The social giant told the Times that the professor, Aleksandr Kogan, claimed to be collecting it for academic reasons. The Times said Facebook downplayed the leak when it sought comment for the story this week.

  • Cambridge Analytica's chief executive Alexander Nix, and other officials, had denied obtaining or using Facebook data. The company acknowledged in a statement that it obtained Facebook data though it blamed the professor for violating the platform's rules.
  • The Times reported that Facebook has not fully re-taken control of the data, and reported that an ex-employee claimed to have seen hundreds of unencrypted gigabytes on Cambridge servers. Cambridge Analytica said in its statement that it "deleted all data received from" from the company run by the academic.
  • "No data from [the company run by Kogan] was used by Cambridge Analytica as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump 2016 presidential campaign," the company said.

What they're saying: Facebook executives deny the incident represents a data breach. “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do, and we require the same from people who operate apps on Facebook," Facebook deputy general counsel Paul Grewal said in a statement. "If these reports are true, it's a serious abuse of our rules. All parties involved — including the SCL Group/Cambridge Analytica, Christopher Wylie and Aleksandr Kogan -- certified to us that they destroyed the data in question. "

  • Amid reports that the data is not destroyed, Grewal said Facebook is suspending the three parties from Facebook, pending further information. The company will also "take whatever steps" to ensure the data is deleted.

Meanwhile in London, the firm is being probed by the Parliament and government regulators for possible data privacy violations and allegations that it helped influence the Brexit campaign.

Go deeper: The N.Y. Times investigation

Go deeper

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker