Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Facebook faces maximum fine in British Cambridge Analytica inquiry


Facebook has been slapped with a £500,000 fine for the role it played in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the data of 87m users was harvested for political purposes.

But it would represent the first tangible punishment for the company's privacy scandal, which tarnished its reputation, temporarily pushed down its shares and forced CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress, but otherwise had few lasting repercussions.

The UK Information Commissioner's Office on Tuesday announced a preliminary fine of 500,000 pounds ($664,000) after finding the social-media giant had failed to protect user data and wasn't transparent about how the user data was obtained by others.

"We are at a crossroads", said information commissioner Elizabeth Denham in a statement.

Her office is leading the European investigations into how such an amount of data - most belonging to U.S. and United Kingdom residents, she says - could have ended up in the hands of a consulting firm that worked on Donald Trump's USA presidential campaign.

Facebook "will get a chance to respond to the proposed penalties before the ICO releases a final decision", Bloomberg reports.

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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".

OAIC is conducting its own investigation into whether Facebook breached the Privacy Act, which obligates organisations to ensure customers are notified about the collection and handling of their personal information.

"We are fully cooperating with the investigation now under way by the Australian Privacy Commissioner and will review any additional evidence that is made available when the UK Office of the Information Commissioner releases their report", the spokeswoman said.

The British agency said it is still weighing potential penalties against Kogan as well as Alexander Nix, the former chief executive of Cambridge Analytica.

However, the Information Commissioner's report said other regulatory action would include a criminal prosecution against Cambridge Analytica's parent firm, SCL Elections, for failing to deal with the regulator's enforcement notice. The U.K.'s investigation found "evidence that copies of the data/parts of it also seem to have been shared with other parties and on other systems beyond", which "potentially brings into question the accuracy" of Cambridge Analytica's assertion that it wiped the data from its stores. Among the issues they are still probing is an assertion by Cambridge Analytica that it had deleted the data, after the social media giant requested it in 2015.

That's despite earlier estimates that 2.7 million users in the European Union had their data improperly shared. The company has said it plans to do so "soon".

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