Facebook says Cambridge Analytica may have had data on 87 million people

Privacy scandal widens.

The personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, up from a previous estimate of more than 50 million.

Most of the 87 million people whose data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, which worked on US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, were in the United States, Facebook chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer wrote in a blog post.

He revealed 311,127 people in Australia had also had their information “improperly shared” with the firm.

Facebook said it was taking steps to restrict the personal data available to third-party app developers.

The world’s largest social media company has been hammered by investors and faces anger from users, advertisers and lawmakers after a series of scandals about fake news stories, election-meddling and privacy.

Last month, Facebook acknowledged that personal information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg will testify about the matter next week before the US house energy and commerce committee.

Shares in Facebook were down 1.4 percent at the time of writing to US$153.90. They are down more than 16 percent since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.

The previous estimate of more than 50 million Facebook users affected by the data leak came from two newspapers, the New York Times and London’s Observer, based on their investigations of Cambridge Analytica.

Schroepfer did not provide details of how Facebook came to determine its higher estimate, but he said Facebook would tell people if their information may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

A representative from Cambridge Analytica could not immediately be reached for comment.

The British-based consultancy has denied wrongdoing. It says it engaged a university professor “in good faith” to collect Facebook data in a manner similar to how other third-party app developers have harvested personal information.

The scandal has kicked off investigations by privacy commissioners in several countries including Australia, as well as the US Federal Trade Commission and 37 US state attorneys general.