Saturday, 21 July, 2018

Facebook BROKE LAW in personal data controversy, says watchdog

Jeannette Daniel | 11 July, 2018, 10:26

On Tuesday, the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office) announced that it will hit Facebook with a £500,000 (roughly $663,000) penalty over two breaches of the UK Data Protection Act linked to the incident, in which political research firm Cambridge Analytica misappropriated tens of millions of users' personal data.

It could be the first in a series of penalties for Facebook, political parties, data companies and academics as a result of the scandal.

United Kingdom investigators also questioned whether Facebook failed to maintain adequate safeguards to ensure other third-party app developers had not misused social data.

"We are at a crossroads", said information commissioner Elizabeth Denham in a statement. The fine "sends a clear signal that I consider this a significant issue, especially when you look at the scale and the impact of this kind of data breach".

Facebook, along with consultancy Cambridge Analytica, has been the focus of the investigation since February when evidence emerged that an app was used to harvest the data of 50 million Facebook users across the world.

Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Donald Trump in 2016, has denied its work on the US president's successful election campaign made use of data.

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Former Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix REUTERS/Henry Nicholls Facebook has a chance to respond to the ICO before a final decision is made on the fine.

"As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015", Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said in a statement.

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. "We're reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon". The agency said Tuesday that the social media giant "contravened the law by failing to safeguard people's information".

The U.K.'s probe adopted a wide lens, focusing not only on Facebook but the ecosystem of players - totaling 172 organizations and 285 individuals - involved in the collection and sale of data about web users for political purposes.

That's despite earlier estimates that 2.7 million users in the European Union had their data improperly shared. Facebook also received a minor fine of $164,000 from French regulators for failing to meet the country's data protection rules.

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