Facebook facing record £500000 fine over Cambridge Analytica scandal

Frederick Owens
July 11, 2018

"We have been working closely with the ICO in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the USA and other countries", she said.

The British privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO, ) said Wednesday that intends to fine Facebook the maximum possible fine for the data protection violation.

Facebook came under fire earlier this year after media outlets reported that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm based in London, had secretly harvested user data that it then used to try and manipulate public opinion.

The ICO added that it plans to issue Facebook with the maximum available fine for breaches of the Data Protection Act - an equivalent of US$660,000 or €566,000.

"We are at a crossroads", said information commissioner Elizabeth Denham in a statement. Facebook initially said the scandal affected about 310,000 Australians in total. "We're reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon".

Without detailing how the information may have been used, it said the company had "failed to be transparent about how people's data was harvested by others".

It also said it would send warning letters to 11 political parties to compel them to audit their data protection practices.

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"The complaint seeks financial recompense for the unauthorized access to, and use of, their personal data".

Media Committee chairman Damian Collins commented: "Given that the ICO is saying that Facebook broke the law, it is essential that we now know which other apps that ran on their platform may have scraped data in a similar way". Her office is leading the European investigations into how such an amount of data - most belonging to United States and UK residents, she says - could have ended up in the hands of a consulting firm that worked on Donald Trump's USA presidential campaign.

SCL Elections was liquidated in the wake of the scandal.

Facebook faces several other investigations, including others in Europe, a probe by the US Federal Trade Commission and, reportedly, several others at federal agencies such as the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission. "But this can not be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law", she said in a statement. "People can not have control over their own data if they don't know or understand how it is being used".

It has also said that, while it pitched for work with campaign group Leave.EU ahead of the Brexit referendum in Britain in 2016, it did not end up doing any work on the campaign.

"This can not by left to a secret internal investigation at Facebook".

Among the main areas of concern are that parties buy up marketing lists and lifestyle information from data brokers without proper due diligence and fail to check consents when using third party data analytics companies.

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