What the emails show is that months before Facebook learned that its user data was being illicitly shared with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook employees based in D.C. had pressed the company to investigate a “sketchy,” but unrelated, Cambridge Analytica data-scrapping operation.


Zuckerberg neglected to mention this in his letter to the public about Cambridge Analytica. And perhaps for obvious reasons: It shows Facebook was at least aware that the firm was engaged in (to use its own employee’s words) “sketchy” activities months before Zuckerberg claims to have “learned” about the firm by reading a Guardian news report.

Facebook said in a statement it is “agreeing” to release the email, which belies the fact that it spent months trying to prevent its release:

Today we are agreeing with the District of Columbia Attorney General to jointly make public a September 2015 document in which Facebook employees discuss public data scraping. We believe this document has the potential to confuse two different events surrounding our knowledge of Cambridge Analytica. There is no substantively new information in this document and the issues have been previously reported. As we have said many times, including last week to a British parliamentary committee, these are two distinct issues. One involved unconfirmed reports of scraping — accessing or collecting public data from our products using automated means — and the other involved policy violations by Aleksandr Kogan, an app developer who sold user data to Cambridge Analytica. This document proves the issues are separate; conflating them has the potential to mislead people.


Last month, the Federal Trade Commission announced Facebook would pay a $5 billion fine, the largest ever handed down for violations of consumer privacy, after a year-long investigation into the Cambridge Analytica incident. The company also agreed to ask users’ permission before sharing their data beyond what’s specified in its privacy settings.

You can read Facebook’s entire statement here. Read the full Cambridge Analytica email here.