is suspending another company that has harvested data from its website and said it is investigating whether the analytics company's contracts with the US government and a Kremlin-affiliated Russian nonprofit company violated the platform's policy.
Crimson Hexagon, based in Boston, had contracts In recent years, people have been analyzing public Facebook data for these and other customers, according to those familiar with the matter and federal procurement data. Crimson Hexagon says it has the largest repository of public social media posts, a total of more than a trillion, from websites that also contain it
Crimson Hexagon works with little oversight from Facebook after retrieving public data from the social media platform, according to more than a dozen people familiar with the business. The government contracts were not approved by Facebook in advance, so the people.
Facebook, in response to questions from the Wall Street Journal this week about the control of Crimson Hexagon's government contracts and the storage of user data, said on Friday, some contracts were not known. On Friday it was said that it suspended Crimson Hexagon's apps from Facebook and its Instagram unit and launched a comprehensive investigation into how Crimson Hexagon collects, shares and stores user data.
A spokesperson said Facebook plans to meet with the Crimson Hexagon team over the next few days to investigate the matter.
"Facebook has a responsibility to protect people's information, which is one of the reasons that we've stepped up." "In recent years, I have access to user data in many ways," said Ime Archibong, Facebook Vice President for product partnerships.
He said in the statement that Facebook allows external parties to produce "anonymized findings for business purposes" prohibits the use of his data for surveillance purposes.
Chris Bingham, Crimson Hexagon's Chief Technology Officer, said in a statement earlier this week that he is abiding by the policies of his social media partners and that the company does not collect private information. On Friday, Mr. Bingham said he fully cooperates with Facebook and "works together to solve the problem as quickly as possible."
Crimson Hexagon only obtains publicly available data from Facebook and Twitter. However, it seems that at least one accidentally received private data from Instagram, after people who are familiar with the matter.
In this incident, Crimson Hexagon received some private Instagram posts in a crowd of hundreds of public posts in 201
Such fumbling is considered serious, as Facebook has strict rules against third-party access to private data.
A spokesman for Facebook said the company had requested further evidence from Crimson Hexagon, but "based on our previous research, Crimson Hexagon did not receive Facebook or Instagram information inappropriately."
In recent months, Facebook and Chief Executive
have repeatedly made commitments to become a trusted custodian of user information. These efforts largely followed the discovery of Cambridge Analytica, a research firm with ties to the president in March
Campaigning had misused data on millions of Facebook users.
Crimson Hexagon processes large amounts of public user data generated by social media platforms on a daily basis, including much of the content on Twitter and Instagram, as well as any items on Facebook that users have not designated as private. Facebook users can choose how many of their profiles should remain public. Names and profile pictures are considered public to all users. Public posts contain comments that users make on public pages for brands, celebrities, or specific events.
Public data, used in large quantities, can inform companies about how certain groups of people feel at a given time and place, government agencies in the US and abroad, as well as political parties working for voters to influence. Data privacy experts say that most Americans do not know that public data is being analyzed and used for so many purposes.
With Twitter, Crimson Hexagon and other companies are paying to access large amounts of public information through Twitter's "fire hose". "Due to the limitations of Facebook data, Crimson Hexagon has been able to access more data from Twitter than Facebook, according to some people familiar with the matter."
A Twitter spokesperson said, "We've invested a lot in our data compliance in recent years We are constantly evolving our program and consistently enforcing our anti-developer policies – all the way to permanently blocking access to Twitter data in any form. "
Crimson Hexagon has grown to more than $ 1 billion over the last few years, making it one of the largest players in a marketing analytics industry, according to the research company
a social scientist and Harvard professor, co-founder of Crimson Hexagon in 2007 and serves as chairman. He said in a statement that he had never been involved in the company's daily operations.
Earlier this month, Mr. King, in his capacity as an academic, announced the launch of a new research project that he and Facebook officials have promoted as a reflection of the company's renewed commitment to transparency. Called Social Science One, it will give a team of outside researchers access to Facebook data with the aim of better understanding how the platform influences elections and democracy. The project is not affiliated with Crimson Hexagon.
Crimson Hexagon has sold its own analytical platform abroad including Russia and Turkey. In 2014, it worked with the Civil Society Development Foundation, a Russian non-profit organization with ties to the local government, according to people who are familiar with it.
The nonprofit organization used Crimson Hexagon's platform to study the opinion of the Russian people about the regime of the Russian president
according to a 2015 group report. The non-profit organization did not respond to requests for comment.
The Government of Turkey used Crimson Hexagon's service in its decision in 2014 to temporarily shut down Twitter amid public disagreements, the persons familiar with the matter said. A Turkish government official declined to comment.
Since 2014, US government agencies have paid Crimson Hexagon more than $ 800,000 for 22 separate contracts, according to the Federal Procurement Agency. In June, the company secured a $ 240,000 contract with the State Department.
A US State Department spokeswoman said one of their divisions uses Crimson Hexagon "to identify and analyze trends in publicly available social and digital media data." The Ministry of Defense did not return a request for comment.
At One Point In the past three years, Crimson Hexagon has held talks with the Department of Defense to prosecute the Islamic State, according to a person familiar with the matter. Nothing came from the discussion, the person said.
Crimson Hexagon did not publicize its government work, and some employees were initially resistant to prosecuting these contracts, people familiar with the matter said. Sometimes people were not sure how the authorities would use the service, people say.
Twitter seems to have used more control over Facebook in the Crimson Hexagon contracts in the US.
In a case near the end of 2016, Crimson Hexagon was in talks with the US Immigration and Customs Bureau, but dropped out of a potential deal because of Twitter's resistance, the persons familiar with the matter said. Twitter eventually told Crimson Hexagon that it could not sell to any agencies under the Department of Homeland Security because it was too hard to track how the data was used.
Public records show that Crimson Hexagon worked with the Department of Homeland Security, including an August 2017 contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will last until September 1st.
A FEMA spokeswoman said the agency uses Crimson Hexagon "to understand the volume of discussion and top issues regarding FEMA online mentions or active disaster response." An ICE spokesperson declined to comment.
Crimson Hexagon also signed a contract with the Secret Service between 2014 and 2016, also part of Homeland Security. A Secret Service spokeswoman told the Government and Public Affairs Bureau Affairs took advantage of Crimson Hexagon's tools to track its social media posts and make contact with the media.
Rob Barry, Jim Oberman, David Gauthier-Vil Lars and James Marson have contributed to this article.
Write to Kirsten Grind at email@example.com