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Facebook suspends the Trump campaign’s data mining firm, amid revelations of a major data breach

Facebook has blocked Cambridge Analytica, which provided data to the Trump election campaign The news: In a blog post late on March 16, Facebook’s deputy general counsel said Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL) and its political data arm, Cambridge Analytica, had their access to the platform suspended for violating data use policies. The details: According to Facebook, Aleksander Kogan, a psychology professor at Cambridge University in the UK, had collected various kinds of personal data using an app on the social network that approximately 270,000 people had downloaded.

Billed as a research vehicle for psychologists, the app asked them to share things such as content they had liked and the city they’d listed on their Facebook profile. The social network says that Kogan passed the information to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies in violation of its rules. When it discovered this in 2015, it removed the app and asked Kogan, SCL/Cambridge Analytica, and Wylie to certify they had destroyed the data collected.

All three parties said they had done so. But according to its post, Facebook recently received reports that not all the information had been deleted. The social network says it’s looking into these claims, and is suspending Kogan, Wylie and SCL/Cambridge Analytica pending further information.

But wait there’s more: In a related story on March 17, the New York Times reported that Cambridge Analytica collected private information from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without permission, in what it described as “one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history.” The story cites documents and former employees, including on-the-record statements from Wylie.

Why this matters: The use of social media platforms to target political messaging during the 2016 election has caused plenty of controversy.

Facebook’s move will be seen as a sign it’s taking seriously accusations it was used to manipulate public opinion, but it also raises the question of whether other data was siphoned off without the network’s knowledge.

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Landlords: how much profit could you make by selling your buy-to-let property?

With a raft of taxation and lending changes, there are signs that some landlords are leaving the buy-to-let sector. How much money do they currently stand to make by selling up? Here, we take a look at new research showing the regional differences in how much profit landlords make when they sell their buy-to-let properties.

  • If you’re a landlord and are considering consolidating your portfolio, call Which?

    Mortgage Advisers[1] on 0808 252 7987 for impartial, expert advice on your mortgage options.

Landlord buy-to-let profits

New research by the estate agency group Countrywide has found that landlords made an average of GBP86,851 when selling a rental property in 2017. These findings are based on landlords selling up after an average of 8.7 years of property ownership. While this figure might sound high, it’s less than the GBP92,886 made by the average owner-occupier, with capital gains tax bills eating into buy-to-let profits.

Regional variations

Perhaps unsurprisingly, London investors made the biggest profits, with more than a quarter (28%) doubling their initial investment and average profits clocking in at four times those in the rest of the UK.

This is in stark contrast to North East England, where a quarter of landlords didn’t make any profit at all.

Top local authorities for landlord profits

The picture varies only slightly when we look at local authorities rather than regions. Again, London dominates the list, but there are also places in the top 10 for Maldon in Essex, where landlords enjoy average profits of over GBP100,000, and Pendle in Lancashire (GBP19,525). The lowest percentage profits were found in Selby, North Yorkshire, where investors made GBP9,703 on average.

Rents in London rising most quickly

The average cost of a new let in Great Britain increased by 1.5% in February to GBP954 a month.

For the third month in a row, London rents increased at the fastest speed to reach GBP1,686. Scotland was the only region to see rents drop, with the monthly average now standing at GBP587.

Five changes for landlords in 2018

Landlords face continuing challenges that threaten to eat into their profits in 2018.

  1. Mortgage rates increasing: the Bank of England is likely to increase the base rate[2] soon, and the closure of the Term Funding and Funding for Lending[3] schemes could push up the cost of mortgages.
  2. Tighter lending regulations: portfolio landlords (those with four or more mortgaged properties) face stricter lending criteria[4]. Rather than supplying details of overall profits, landlords must now provide details of every property in their portfolio when applying for further finance.
  3. Mortgage interest tax relief cuts: from April landlords will only be able to offset 50% of their mortgage interest[5] when filing their tax return (currently 75%).

    This figure will steadily decrease until 2020, when it will be replaced by a tax credit worth 20% of mortgage interest.

  4. Landlord licensing: an increasing number of local councils are bringing in additional and selective licensing schemes, with landlords facing big fines if they don’t adhere to the rules. Check out our table to see if you need a licence[6].
  5. Energy efficiency regulations: from April, rented properties will need to have a minimum EPC rating of E[7] – with fines of up to GBP5,000 for those who breach the rules.

You can learn more about the challenges facing landlords in our full story on 12 things buy-to-let landlords need to know in 2018[8].

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which?

Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which?

Money Compare are trading names of Which?

Financial Services Limited.


  1. ^ Which?

    Mortgage Advisers (

  2. ^ base rate (
  3. ^ Term Funding and Funding for Lending (
  4. ^ stricter lending criteria (
  5. ^ 50% of their mortgage interest (
  6. ^ Check out our table to see if you need a licence (
  7. ^ minimum EPC rating of E (
  8. ^ 12 things buy-to-let landlords need to know in 2018 (

Tencent is putting a robot research lab in China’s manufacturing heartland

Tencent, the tech titan behind China’s biggest social networking and chat platform, WeChat, is about to bring its AI research to life by opening a robotics lab in China’s center of manufacturing, Shenzhen. The move, announced at an AI event yesterday, will see the company explore an exciting new technological frontier that potentially could have a big payoff. Why robots? Tencent is already research many kinds of AI algorithms, and even has a rival to DeepMind’s Go-playing program AlphaGo, called Fine Art.

But it’s more difficult to have AI software control systems that operate in the messy real world. The challenge of interacting with real objects can also feed back into AI research on vision and language. Factory reset: Robots cannot currently do the kind manufacturing work performed by low-wage workers in Shenzhen, like putting together electronic components.

With those wages rising rapidly in China though, there is a desire for robots to take on more tasks, and the new lab will be ideally positioned to help with this effort. Rising power: Chinese companies are ramping up their AI research at a dizzying pace. Tencent already has already has two research labs focused on AI, and the company has been publishing AI research at major conferences.

China’s other two tech giants, Alibaba and Baidu, are also now major forces in AI research.

The US had better take notice.

Image credit:

  • Dmitry Lysenko

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