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The British political consulting firm at the center of Facebook's data scandal announced on Wednesday the data leak only affected 30 million users — a lower threshold than the "up to 87 million" claimed by Facebook.
"Cambridge Analytica licensed data for no more than 30 million people from GSR [Global Science Research], as is clearly stated in our contract with the research company. We did not receive more data than this," Cambridge Analytica wrote in an email.
Both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have blamed GSR, the company that harvested Facebook data using a personality app, for duping them. But Facebook estimated the maximum impact of the data misuse could be much higher.
Just hours prior, Facebook said up to 87 million users might be affected — higher than estimates of 50 million previously reported by The New York Times and other outlets.
During a call with press, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company had come to this estimate by assuming each user who had downloaded GSR's app had the maximum amount of possible friends at the time the data was harvested.
"We're sure it is not more than 87 million. It is probably less," Zuckerberg said during the call.
Reports and whistleblowers have accused Cambridge Analytica - a firm that worked on President Donald Trump's digital campaign - of purchasing data that was improperly collected by an app made by GSR. Facebook said it knew about the data leak back in 2015, banned the app and asked GSR and Cambridge Analytica to prove they had deleted the data. But reports broke in March in the New York Times and Observer that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data, exposing the leak to the public.
But Cambridge Analytica insists the data was used according to the terms of its contract. Furthermore, the firm said the data was deleted per Facebook's request and none was used in its work in the 2016 election.
"We did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election," the statement said.
Cambridge Analytica has maintained throughout this scandal that its use of Facebook user data was completely lawful. It also insists that Facebook always knew it had deleted the data when requested in 2015.
In its statement, Cambridge Analytica said their contract with GSR insisted all data be collected legally and that they pursued legal action "when we found out they had breached this contract."
Global Science Research former co-director Aleksandr Kogan has said Facebook was fully aware it changed its terms and services to reflect its intent to use the data commercially. And that he, too, deleted the data when requested.
Cambridge Analytica will undergo an independent third-party audit to demonstrate that no GSR data remains in its system.