Facebook is facing explosive new questions about when senior executives knew of Cambridge Analytica’s abuse of users’ data, one year on from when the scandal first broke, as federal prosecutors investigate claims that the social media giant has covered up the extent of its relationship with the firm.
The Observer has also learned that a Facebook board member and confidant of its CEO Mark Zuckerberg met Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, in the summer of 2016 just as the data firm started working for the Trump campaign.
Facebook has repeatedly refused to say when its senior executives, including Zuckerberg, learned of how Cambridge Analytica had used harvested data from millions of people across the world to target them with political messages without their consent. But Silicon Valley insiders have told the Observer that Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, the founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley, attended a meeting with Wylie held in Andreessen Horowitz’s office two years before he came forward as a whistleblower.Advertisement
It marks the end of one of the worst weeks in Facebook’s history. News of more criminal investigations and senior executives leaving the firm was topped by the shocking revelation on Friday that a gunman who killed 49 people at prayer in New Zealand livestreamed the massacre on Facebook. In the hours that followed, Facebook and Google failed to stop the footage going viral with hundreds of thousands of people viewing the video.
But the Observer’s revelations about Facebook open up a new angle on the year-long scandal, raising questions that go right up to board level.
Individuals who attended the meeting with Wylie and Andreessen claim it was set up to learn what Cambridge Analytica was doing with Facebook’s data and how technologists could work to “fix” it. It is unclear in what capacity Andreesen Horowitz hosted and who attened the meeting but it is nonetheless a hugely embarrassing revelation for Facebook, which was revealed last week to be the subject of a criminal investigation into whether it had covered up the extent of its involvement with Cambridge Analytica.