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Researcher behind Cambridge Analytica flap: Mark Zuckerberg is 'totally' a hypocrite

CNBC logo CNBC 4/23/2018 Kellie Ell
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Aleksandr Kogan, the data scientist at the center of the Facebook data scandal, said Mark Zuckerberg is "totally" a hypocrite. 

In March, The New York Times and The Guardian reported that political data-research firm Cambridge Analytica improperly got hold of data of as many as 87 million Facebook users on the social media platform. The information was collected through a quiz app created by Aleksander Kogan, a researcher who worked at Cambridge University at the time, then passed to the political research firm.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in testimony before Congress earlier this month, said Kogan's actions were not acceptable.

But Kogan said what he did was common. "In reality, I think the truth is, we've got tens of thousands of other apps who did the same thing, probably a much bigger scale than me," Kogan told CNBC on "Power Lunch" Monday. "And they're all out there and Facebook has no accounting for it."

Kogan says the current narrative is all wrong.

"Facebook is trying to distract," Kogan said. "They're trying to make this story about, 'Hey, it's a rogue agent and he transferred the data.'"

He insists that, far from being a rogue, he had a close relationship with the company. "I was working with [Facebook] for a long time," said Kogan, who was the former co-director of global science research at the University of Cambridge. "I was a great ally. They hired my students. The fact that we were doing this project, it seemed like something super normal. I never expected anything to go wrong."

He added that the company's business model is the real issue.

"Their model is built on selling ads," Kogan said. "To sell ads in social media, you want to find the right person and the right place at the right time and serve them the right ad. That's your advantage over TV. To do that, you want to know as much as possible about people. Now, if Facebook actually has to back up a minute and get less data and get people to opt in, it's a real threat to the business model."

Kogan said Cambridge Analytica paid his company about £230,000 for its service, most of which went to legal fees and other failed start ups.

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