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The social media giant's shares were down 5.36 per cent at $175.17 at the time of writing, slashing almost $4bn (£2.8bn) off of founder Mark Zuckerberg's fortune.

Facebook says that it removed Kogan's app and demanded the data be destroyed in 2015 when the company learned that user information had been passed along to political operatives.

It's possible that Cambridge Analytica tapped other data sources, including what Cruz's campaign app collected.

In addition to mining data from Facebook, Nix and managing director of Cambridge Analytica's political division, Mark Turnbull, spoke of bribery stings, honey traps and spying with the help of ex-spies from Britain and Israel. "What's clear is that Facebook has built up a massive intelligence tool that can be exploited by foreign actors who don't care at all if they are violating Facebook's user agreements", remarks Max Bergmann, who heads the Moscow Project at the Center for American Progress.

Cambridge Analytica elaborated in a statement, saying that it had posed a series of "ludicrous hypothetical scenarios" to determine whether the client was someone they should engage with.

News reports now suggest that contrary to prior representations, Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Jared Kushner to run Trump's data operation, had contacts with Russians, specifically a Russian energy firm.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar and Republican John Kennedy called for Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to appear before Congress, along with the CEOs of Google and Twitter. It can range from major websites like Amazon to tiny apps such as games you played once many years ago. Kogan worked with a branch of SCL Group called SCL Elections.

"We now make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools", Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post about his 2018 goals.

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"We are investigating the circumstances in which Facebook data may have been illegally acquired and used", UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said.

Facebook shares sank $13.43 in midday trading, putting the stock on pace for its biggest one-day fall since August 2012 and dragging down the rest of the technology sector, with fears rising of increased government regulation. Although Facebook said it received assurances that the data had been deleted, the company did not verify the responses. First, you can just deactivate your account, which means it'll disappear from public view but Facebook will still hold all your data and you can go back and restart it later if you change your mind. According to Facebook, leaving them all checked will make your friends' "experience better and more social", which doesn't seem like a good trade-off for you.

Kogan has agreed but Wylie declined, Facebook said.

"Cambridge Analytica will try to pick at whatever mental weakness or vulnerability that we think you have and try to warp your perception of what's real around you", Wylie told ABC News in the interview.

Antonio Tajani tweeted on Monday: "Allegations of misuse of Facebook user data is an unacceptable violation of our citizens' privacy rights".

A Cambridge Analytica statement denied misusing Facebook data for the Trump campaign.

Cambridge was backed by the conservative billionaire Richard Mercer, and at one point employed Stephen Bannon - later President Donald Trump's campaign chairman and White House adviser - as a vice president. He said the firm identified voters who might be swayed and targeted them with messages that may or may not be true.