Dr Kogan’s colleagues raised concerns about his behaviour four years ago

Former colleagues of Dr Aleksandr Kogan, the man at the centre of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, expressed concern for the way Kogan used data gathered through university research for the benefit of political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica.

Speaking to the Financial Times, a Cambridge academic, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims that Kogan, during his employment as a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Psychology, used Facebook information “in ways that we might not have approved of and clearly threatened to undermine liberal democracy.”

Cambridge Psychometrics Centre was at the time working on developing tools that would be able to analyse anonymised Facebook data for political and psychological research. At the time, Kogan claimed that fears surrounding the ethics of his work were unfounded and he had developed his own tools without using university resources.

Concerns were later passed to the university. Following a series of hostile messages between the university’s legal team and the psychometrics department, the University was forced to employ an external lawyer to arbitrate the dispute. The case was eventually abandoned due to its complex nature, which dramatically impacted the legal cost of the process, claims the academic.

The data used at the Centre, taken from anonymised Facebook profiles, was used independently by Kogan to develop a similar app for commercial use through Cambridge Analytica. Kogan’s app, downloaded by over 220,000 users, allowed him access to over 50 million facebook profiles. Data gathered through the app was then passed on to the firm, according to information from whistleblower Christopher Wylie. This information was then influential in the 2016 American presidential elections.

The University of Cambridge has since sought to distance itself from Cambridge Analytica, which chose its name for the university city’s connotations with academic excellence. The University declined to comment to the Financial Times, but did say that it had received assurances from Dr Kogan that “no university data, resources or facilities were used as the basis for his work with Global Science Research.” Kogan has not been suspended from his university position, but has been removed from his Russian government-funded role at the University of Petersburg and suspended from Facebook.

Since the scandal has come to light, Kogan has repeatedly claimed that he is being unfairly blamed. In an interview given to BBC Radio 4's Today programme last Wednesday, he claimed he and his colleagues were "acting perfectly appropriately", and has denied links to the Kremlin. The University has announced that it will launch an investigation into Kogan's activities, to ensure that no university resources were used to supply data to Cambridge Analytica.

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