British regulator to fine Facebook over data protection breaches

Elias Hubbard
July 11, 2018

Facebook said the company illicitly gained access to personal information of up to 87 million users via an academic intermediary, although the firm said the number was much smaller than that. "But this can not be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law".

The Facebook probe is part of a wider investigation into the use of data in political campaigns, which the ICO launched past year, the interim results of which are out today. She added: "As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015".

Facebook, with CA, has been the focus of the ICO's investigation since February when evidence emerged that an app had been used to harvest the data of 50 million Facebook users around the world.

"A significant finding of the ICO investigation is the conclusion that Facebook has not been sufficiently transparent to enable users to understand how and why they might be targeted by a political party or campaign", Denham wrote.

Facebook will have the opportunity to respond to the commissioner before a final decision is made, something the company said it would do soon. Facebook also received a minor fine of $164,000 from French regulators for failing to meet the country's data protection rules.

The ICO fine is a fraction of the amount the social media giant could have faced had a new EU law that gives residents of the European Union more control over their personal data been in affect when the data was shared.

"Fines and prosecutions punish the bad actors, but my real goal is to effect change and restore trust and confidence in our democratic system", she said.

But the ICO said because of the timing of the incidents involved in its inquiry, the penalties were limited to those available under previous legislation.

'People can not have control over their own data if they don't know or understand how it is being used.

Finally, in a hugely optimistic bid, Denham has called for an "ethical pause" to allow lawmakers, regulators, political parties, online platforms and the public "to reflect on their responsibilities in the era of big data before there is a greater expansion in the use of new technologies".

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.

"Facebook should now make the results of their internal investigations known to the ICO, our committee and other relevant investigatory authorities".

"If other developers broke the law we have a right to know, and the users whose data may have been compromised in this way should be informed".

"The number of Facebook users affected by this kind of data scraping may be far greater than has now been acknowledged".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER