App developer says he is scapegoat in Facebook data row

LONDON The academic behind the app that harvested data from 50 million Facebook users said yesterday he was being used as "a scapegoat" in the row over online privacy.

Dr Aleksandr Kogan said British company Cambridge Analytica (CA), which is at the centre of a major scandal rocking Facebook, assured him that what he was doing was "perfectly legal and within the terms of service" of the social media giant.

A former CA employee said the company was able to create psychological profiles on 50 million Facebook users through the use of a personality prediction app that was downloaded by 270,000 people.

CA has blamed Mr Kogan, the University of Cambridge psychologist who developed the personality survey called This Is Your Digital Life, for misusing the data.

Dr Kogan told the BBC yesterday that he was "stunned" by the allegations against him.

He said: "The events of the past week have been a total shell shock. My view is that I am being basically used as a scapegoat by both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

"Honestly, we thought we were acting perfectly appropriately. We thought we were doing somethingnormal."

Dr Kogan told the BBC that the services provided by the political consultancy had been greatly exaggerated.

"What Cambridge Analytica has tried to sell is magic.

Honestly, we thought we were acting perfectly appropriately.Dr Aleksandr Kogan

"They have 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 is not that."

Mr Christopher Wylie, 28, who became the whistleblower by providing the Guardian with a tranche of documents last year that laid out the secret workings behind CA, in an interview with the Washington Post said Mr Steve Bannon was deeply involved in the company's strategy.

Mr Bannon was the former chief strategist at the White House. He approved spending nearly US$1 million (S$1.3 million) to acquire data, including Facebook profiles, back in 2014.

Meanwhile, Mr Brian Acton, a co-founder of WhatsApp, which Facebook bought in 2014, urged people to delete their accounts on Facebook, USA Today reported.

"It is time," tweeted Mr Acton, who quit Facebook earlier this year to start a foundation. He added the hashtag #DeleteFacebook.