President Donald Trump's data consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, illegally harvested personal information of millions of Facebook users, the Federal Trade Commission said in a decision issued Friday.
The agency ordered Cambridge Analytica, now in bankruptcy, to delete the data along with any material developed from the information.
Cambridge Analytica gleaned the data from Global Science Research's Alexsandr Kogan. He collected the information in 2014 via his personality-quiz app "thisisyourdigitallife." That app was only downloaded by 270,000 Facebook users, but Kogan was able to gather information about up to 87 million of those users' friends, according to Facebook.
The FTC found that Cambridge Analytica deceived users, because Kogan's app promised not to download names and other identifiable information.
“There is also no dispute that this representation was false and misleading,” FTC Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips wrote in a unanimous opinion. “Contrary to Cambridge Analytica’s representation, the [Global Science Research app] did in fact collect participating users’ personally identifiable information, notably including their Facebook User IDs.”
The FTC also found that Cambridge Analytica misrepresented that it participated in a cross-border privacy agreement between the U.S. and Europe.
Cambridge Analytica, backed by conservative billionaire Robert Mercer, used some of the data it harvested to develop psychographic profiling capabilities. The presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) used Cambridge Analytica to target voters, as did Trump's campaign.
Cambridge Analytica previously denied using specific Facebook data on Trump's behalf. But the company's former CEO, Alexander Nix, boasted to an undercover reporter that the company's extensive ad targeting helped Trump win the presidency.
Nix and Kogan previously settled with the FTC. Cambridge Analytica didn't answer the agency's complaint.
In July, the FTC reached a tentative $5 billion settlement with Facebook over a host of alleged privacy violations, including the data transfers to Cambridge Analytica.
If accepted by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly in Washington, D.C., that deal will immunize Facebook from prosecution for numerous potential privacy violations that occurred before mid-June of this year -- including ones that haven't yet come to light. Kelly hasn't yet indicated whether he will grant the deal approval.