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Professor who harvested Facebook data says he's a scapegoat

Professor Aleksandr Kogan says that the British data firm Cambridge Analytica and Facebook are using him as a scapegoat after reports that the firm harvested millions of people’s private Facebook information.

“My view is that I’m being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica,” Kogan told the BBC in an interview that aired Wednesday.

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In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday, Kogan, a professor at Cambridge University, said he doesn’t believe he broke Facebook’s policy. He said Cambridge Analytica had assured him he was acting in accordance with Facebook’s policies.

“We thought we were doing something that was really normal and we were assured by Cambridge Analytica that everything was perfectly legal and within the limits of the terms of service,” Kogan told the BBC.

He noted that he did not have a clear idea of how his data would be used.

“We knew they wanted to use it for political purposes but there was a lot of ambiguity of what that meant,” Kogan told Cooper.

A Facebook spokesperson told CNN that Kogan had broken its policies in numerous ways, including by passing on data to third-party groups that used the data for commercial purposes.

Kogan also said that Cambridge Analytica overstated its ability to use social media to affect political campaigns.

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“I think what Cambridge Analytica has tried to sell is magic, and they’ve made claims that this is incredibly accurate and it tells you everything there is to tell about you. But I think the reality is, it’s not that,” he told the BBC.

Cambridge Analytica, which was used by the Trump administration during the 2016 elections, has come under fire after reports last week that the firm obtained Facebook data on 50 million people from Kogan. Facebook suspended the firm on Friday.

The data firm has denied mishandling Facebook users’ data and said it deleted all the Facebook data it once accumulated.

In a recent undercover investigation, Channel 4 News in London filmed the firm’s CEO saying that it used bribes and sex workers to entrap politicians as a way to influence elections all over the world. The firm has denied it used such practices.

A number of senators have called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to question Facebook and other major technology companies about privacy concerns.

Kogan told CNN that he would be willing to testify before Congress and talk to authorities about his involvement with Cambridge Analytica.