Facebook respond to facing £500k fine over Cambridge Analytica scandal

Elias Hubbard
July 12, 2018

Facebook is staring down its first fine for allowing Cambridge Analytica to improperly access data about millions of people, potentially opening the door for governments around the world to slap the social media giant with other tougher penalties and stricter regulation.

The commissioner's office also said it could now bring criminal charges against the parent company of Cambridge Analytica.

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. It can respond to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) before a final decision on a fine is made.

Facebook will be hit with its first fine over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which the political consultancy used the platform to harvest the details of 87 million people.

The scandal took place before new European Union data protection laws that allow much larger fines came into force.

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Data collected from Facebook by Cambridge Analytica was apparently used to help influence the election of president Trump in the United States of America, and fake news on Facebook appears to have also paid a significant role in the UK's Brexit referendum.

Facebook's chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, said in a statement that the company is reviewing the ICO report and will respond soon.

Cambridge Analytica got the data of tens of millions of Facebook users from an academic who scraped the information with a personality quiz app. Facebook changed the policies that allowed this scraping in 2015, and told Cambridge Analytica to delete the data in the same year. "But this can not be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law", wrote Denham in a statement.

"My initial thinking was because the breach happened before GDPR there was no way that there would be a significant enough punishment for Facebook", Taylor said.

In a statement issued in advance, information commissioner Elizabeth Denham warned that voters' faith in the political system was being eroded.

"Facebook users will be rightly concerned that the company left their data far too vulnerable to being collected without their consent by developers working on behalf of companies like Cambridge Analytica".

Over 311,000 users in Australia were potentially affected by Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal. The £500,000 fine from the ICO was the maximum penalty prior to GDPR.

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.

In Facebook's case this would amount to around US$1.6 billion (€1.4 billion).

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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