Cambridge Analytica, the data firm hired by President Trump's 2016 campaign, was involved in the harvesting of personal data from over 50 million Facebook users, according to news outlets such as the The New York Times, The Guardian's Observer and Channel 4 News in the U.K. And it gathered that data in a matter of months.

The firm, which was suspended by Facebook over the weekend after Facebook alleged it lied about deleting illicit data, leaned on a third-party firm to create quizzes and surveys inside the social network designed to engage users, then used artificial intelligence systems to build "psychographic profiles" about voters, said co-founder and head of product Matt Oczkowski in a 2017 interview with CBS Interactive's TechRepublic.

"We most certainly do build [AI] tech in house," Oczkowski explained to CBS' Tech Republic. He said that the so-called psychography profiles combined Facebook data with information gathered from other "top commercial data providers" and that data included specific information about voter "demographics, geographics, purchase history, and interests."

When a Facebook user engaged with the survey, he said, the user implicitly gave the company access to a broad spectrum of personal data that Facebook provides for advertisers. The app reached further, giving the company access to profile data from people in the users' broader circle of Facebook friends who had, wittingly or otherwise, set their security setting relatively weakly. Though the company likely did not use a traditional "hack" to access user information, they may have violated Facebook's terms of use by bulk harvesting and repurposing user data.

When asked about how the company chose what to include in Facebook surveys, Oczkowski would only say that, it collects data from "exclusive relationships" with data vendors "and through direct response projects."

Cambridge Analytica pushed back Saturday against the notion that it harvested any data, insisting it had contracted a firm in the U.K. to do research. Cambridge Analytica insisted that when it learned that it had been sold data it shouldn't have, the firm deleted the data.

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