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‘Sex compass’ app harvested user data, former Cambridge Analytica employee says

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The scope of the Facebook data harvesting scandal likely extended far beyond 87 million people, according to a former Cambridge Analytica employee who described how a “sex compass” app was used to gather data.

Brittany Kaiser, who worked for Cambridge Analytica for almost three years before leaving in January, testified before the United Kingdom’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in London on Tuesday as part of its investigation into disinformation and fake news, providing fresh information into how the secretive data analysis company operated.

In addition to the “This Is Your Digital Life” survey developed by Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan, Kaiser said Cambridge Analytica and its partners used a wide range of surveys to collect information on Facebook users — including a “sex compass” app that asked people about their “personal preferences.”

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“I do not know the specifics of these surveys or how the data was acquired or processed,” she said. “But I believe it is almost certain that the number of Facebook users whose data was compromised through routes similar to that used by Kogan is much greater than 87 million, and that both Cambridge Analytica and other unconnected companies and campaigns were involved in these activities.”

When she first joined the company in February 2015, Kaiser said its data science, psychology and creative teams would work together to create surveys in order to get Facebook users to provide access to their accounts.

Cambridge Analytica has been under scrutiny after a whistleblower came forward alleging that the firm, which worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign, used Facebook data to target U.S. voters based on personality traits.

Kaiser said she would tell clients about viral personality quizzes on Facebook and how these applications could be used to harvest information from users who agreed to give the app access to their profiles. It continued to be a part of the company’s sales pitch to “commercial, political and defense clients” even after Facebook requested that Cambridge Analytica delete the data, she said.

Until 2014, Facebook’s developer platform allowed connected apps to take almost any data they wanted from a user who authorized their app. The policy was so loose that it even allowed developers to gather some basic information from the profiles of a person’s friends — even if those friends had not opted in to sharing their information.

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US presidential debate: ‘A wild ride’ for Pennsylvania viewers | World News

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Much of America stayed at home to watch the big debate.

“The home schooling’s keeping them in,” explained Mike McCloskey, owner of the Railroad Street Bar & Grill in Linfield, Pennsylvania. “Teaching kids in the morning is even harder after a hard night.”









First US presidential debate – highlights

It didn’t prevent a sprinkling of the politically-attuned gathering in this self-styled “upbeat hub for brews,” by the Norfolk Southern rail line that runs freight through their swing state.

In the United States, they say if you don’t win Pennsylvania, you don’t win the country.

After an hour and a half of watching the debate, the verdict in Linfield favoured Donald Trump, albeit not unanimously.

Colleen Dougherty said Mr Trump 'owned' the debate
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Colleen Dougherty said Mr Trump ‘owned’ the debate
John Lappin said Mr Trump 'is a leader of our country. It really isn't much more difficult than that'
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John Lappin said Mr Trump ‘is a leader of our country. It really isn’t much more difficult than that’

Colleen Dougherty told Sky News: “I think that Donald Trump owned this. I don’t think that Joe Biden really had anything to really bring to the table. I was really hoping that he would. And we didn’t really have anything.”

John Lappin saw Mr Trump as the victor. He said: “One came with a piece of paper in front of them that can only read from that. The other one is a leader of our country. It really isn’t much more difficult than that.

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Others didn’t declare a clear winner, but did see a loser – the voting public.

Meredith Warren said: “This is terrible, all around. This is very upsetting to watch, but this is the best representation for our country right now. I think they’re both little kids going back and forth to each other. They didn’t answer any questions.”

Meredith Warren called it 'terrible, all around' and 'very upsetting to watch'
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Meredith Warren called it ‘terrible, all around’ and ‘very upsetting to watch’
Watching the presidential debate in Pennsylvania
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Pennsylvania is seen by many as an election bellwether

Mr McCloskey added: “It was a wild ride, it went right, it went left. There was a lot going on, there was a lot of interruption.

“Right now, watching that, I would feel really bad for the American people. Because there was no order. It was all over the place. And I understand why people look at us as a laughing stock. I don’t believe anybody won that debate.”

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Democratic Republic of Congo: More than 50 women allege abuse by Ebola aid workers | UK News

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More than 50 women have alleged that they have been sexually abused or exploited in the Democratic Republic of Congo by Ebola aid workers who said they were from some of the world’s top humanitarian organisations.

The allegations centre around the town of Beni, one of the epicentres of the country’s 10th and most deadly Ebola outbreak which started in 2018.

In an interview, 51 women recounted multiple incidents of abuse and claimed the men who exploited them identified themselves as being with the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, World Vision, medical charity Alima and the UN’s migration agency, IOM.

The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. File pic
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The Ebola outbreak badly affected eastern areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo. File pic

The allegations follow a joint investigation by The New Humanitarian and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The majority of women said they were plied with drinks, others ambushed in offices and hospitals, and some locked in rooms by men who promised jobs or threatened to fire them if they did not comply.

“So many women were affected by this,” said one 44-year-old woman, who explained that to get a job she had to have sex with a man who said he was a WHO worker.

She and the other women spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

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“I can’t think of someone who worked in the response who didn’t have to offer something,” she added.

Some women were cooks, cleaners and community outreach workers hired on short-term contracts, earning $50 to $100 (£40 to £80) a month – more than twice the normal wage.

At least two women said they became pregnant and others said the abuse occurred as recently as March.

The number and similarity of many of the accounts from women in the eastern city of Beni suggest the practice was widespread, with three organisations vowing to investigate the accusations.

UN secretary-general António Guterres called for the allegations to be “investigated fully”.

The WHO said it was investigating the allegations, affirming that it had a “zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual exploitation and abuse”.

“The actions allegedly perpetrated by individuals identifying themselves as working for WHO are unacceptable and will be robustly investigated,” it said in a statement.

“The betrayal of people in the communities we serve is reprehensible and we do not tolerate such behaviour in any of our staff, contractors or partners.

“Anyone identified as being involved will be held to account and face serious consequences, including immediate dismissal.”

Following the allegations against WHO, a Foreign Office spokesperson, said: “Sexual exploitation and abuse are completely abhorrent. We regularly assess all of our partners against the highest safeguarding standards and expect thorough investigations whenever allegations are made.

“The World Health Organisation has confirmed it is urgently investigating these allegations. We will scrutinise their findings closely.”

Spokespeople for IOM, MSF, UNICEF and DRC’s health ministry told both agencies in mid-September they did not know about the accusations before they were presented to them and several said they would need more information to take action.

Oxfam said it does “everything in our power to prevent misconduct and to investigate and act on allegations when they arise, including supporting survivors”.

Meanwhile, an Alima spokesperson said that after investigations earlier this year, two employees were dismissed for sexual harassment and that they had launched a new investigation after the recent reporting.

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Dieselgate scandal: Ex-Audi boss goes on trial in Germany | Business News

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A former Audi boss has gone on trial in the first prosecution related to the Volkswagen (VW) “dieselgate” scandal in the company’s home market of Germany.

Rupert Stadler, who headed VW’s Audi division from 2010 until 2018, is accused alongside three other men of fraud offences – charges they each deny.

The case relates to the VW group’s admission in 2015 that it had rigged millions of diesel cars to cheat emissions testing regimes after the software was uncovered in the US.

Emissions test on a VW
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VW admitted more than 11 million vehicles had been fitted with software designed to cheat emission tests

The German car giant – which includes the VW, Audi, Skoda and Seat brands – revealed that 11 million vehicles worldwide, including almost 1.2 million in the UK, had been fitted with the software.

The scandal has since cost the company more than £27bn in fines and civil settlements – the bulk of which relates to legal action in the US alone, where two executives were also jailed.

Mr Stadler, who was driven to the Munich court in a Mercedes, was arrested in 2018.

He is alleged to have allowed 250,700 Audi vehicles, 71,600 Volkswagens and 112,100 Porsches to be sold on the US and European markets despite knowing about the deception in September 2015 at the latest.

These are not the only legal proceedings related to the scandal in Germany.

Volkswagen’s chief executive at the time, Martin Winterkorn, faces two separate criminal proceedings in the country.

He has also been charged by US authorities but cannot be extradited.

Martin Winterkorn quit as chief executive of the VW group shortly after the diesel emissions scandal came to light
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Martin Winterkorn quit as chief executive of the VW group shortly after the diesel emissions scandal came to light

The company is also continuing to face a string of class action claims in Europe, including the UK, brought on behalf of car owners who are demanding compensation on the grounds they were mis-sold their vehicles.

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