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Unlikely Facebook data was used for Trump campaign

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Facebook data obtained by Cambridge Analytica was probably not used for Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign, according to the academic at the heart of the data scandal surrounding the social network.

Aleksandr Kogan, a researcher at Cambridge University, made the claim to U.K. lawmakers at a committee on fake news and data protection on Tuesday. Kogan’s company Global Science Research shared data on millions of Facebook users — and their friends — with Cambridge Analytica.

“I think it is unlikely,” he said of claims that Facebook data he shared with Cambridge Analytica was used to help Trump’s campaign.

Cambridge Analytica, which is backed by Republican donor Robert Mercer, initially worked for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign but switched to help Trump’s campaign after Cruz backed out of the race.

Kogan said Cruz’s campaign team was “unhappy” with the micro-targeting product that was used by Cambridge Analytica to influence voters.

“The reason I think it’s unlikely is my understanding from talking to others who knew a bit more — because this is much after my time — but my understanding is the Ted Cruz campaign was quite unhappy with the product that SCL (Cambridge Analytica’s parent company) delivered to them.

“And also SCL at this point is under enormous pressure from Facebook to clean up their act and delete all the data. If I’m a company, I don’t know if I would risk the legal liability of Facebook suing me to keep a data set that has apparently failed with the last client it was used for.”

Kogan said that it was difficult to distinguish between SCL and Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica and Facebook were not immediately available when contacted by CNBC.

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Sweden’s high virus death toll may be linked to mild flu seasons: Chief scientist

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People walk on Stranvagen in Stockholm on September 19, 2020.

JONATHAN NACKSTRAND | AFP | Getty Images

Sweden’s chief epidemiologist has partly blamed the country’s high coronavirus death toll on mild flu outbreaks in recent winters.

“When many people die of the flu in the winter, fewer die in heat waves the following summer. In this case, it was Covid-19 that caused many to die,” Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter earlier this week.

‘What has now been seen is that the countries that have had a fairly low mortality for influenza in the last two, three years, such as Sweden, [also] have a very high excess mortality in Covid-19,” he said, according to a translation provided in The Times newspaper.

“Those which had a high flu mortality rate, such as Norway, during the last two winters, have fairly low Covid mortality. The same trend has been seen in several countries. This may not be the whole explanation but part of it.”

Much attention has been paid to Sweden during the coronavirus pandemic because of its decision to not completely lock down its public life and economy. Most of Europe did so as coronavirus cases surged in spring.

Tegnell’s public health agency instead recommended mostly voluntary measures, such as good hygiene, social distancing guidelines and working from home if possible.

Bars, restaurants, most schools and businesses remained opened, however, and face masks are not widely worn. Sweden did ban mass gatherings and visits to elderly care homes, however, although this latter restriction is due to be lifted soon despite a high death toll from Covid-19 being seen in such institutions. 

Sweden’s no-lockdown policy was seen by Tegnell as a way to achieve a degree of herd immunity in the population, he told CNBC in April. 

Herd immunity among a population, usually achieved through vaccination, is reached when around 60% of citizens are deemed immune. With no vaccine available, however, scientists have been looking closely at whether exposure to and recovery from Covid-19 leads to long-term immunity.

Pursuing herd immunity has proved controversial in Sweden because allowing the virus to spread (albeit with some measures in place), has put vulnerable groups such as the elderly and people with existing health conditions at a greater risk of becoming seriously ill and dying. In July, WHO officials warned that patients who recover from the virus may be able to get it again, saying that some studies suggest immunity may wane after a few months. 

Sweden has reported a higher number of infections and deaths than its neighbors, although, with around 10 million people, it has roughly double the population of its neighbors Denmark, Finland and Norway. To date, Sweden has recorded almost 90,000 cases and 5,870 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Denmark, by contrast, has recorded under 25,000 cases and 641 deaths.

Unlike major European economies France, Spain and the U.K., which are seeing coronavirus cases rise again in what is being described as a second wave of the pandemic, Sweden was initially thought to be avoiding a resurgence. However, outbreaks among sports teams have emerged in recent weeks, and rising cases in the capital Stockholm mean the city could now be headed for more restrictions.

“Stockholm has seen a clear increase recently, across all age groups,” Tegnell said in a press conference, Dagens Nyheter reported Tuesday. “We are discussing with Stockholm whether we need some additional possibility to take measures to reduce transmission.”

What possible measures could be introduced was not discussed, but Stockholm’s Health and Medical director Bjorn Eriksson, said an uptrend in the Stockholm region could lead to a “very serious situation again.”

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Tesla sues to overturn Trump administration tariffs on China

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U.S. faces dollar crash, high double-dip recession odds: Stephen Roach

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