Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

Facebook to be fined £500,000 over data breaches

Daniel Leal-olivas  AFP  Getty Images Daniel Leal-olivas AFP Getty Images
Jeannette Daniel | 11 July, 2018, 14:16

Updating on her investigation into the use of data analytics by political campaigns, Britain's Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she meant to fine Facebook 500,000 pounds ($663,850), a small figure for a company with a market value of $590 billion, but the maximum amount allowed. It promised another update in October.

As such it has served Facebook with a notice of intent to fine the biz, and if the sum is coughed up by the web giant as expected, it will be the biggest fine issued by the ICO. The UK's information commissioner is also conducting its own investigation. The FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission are also looking into Facebook's ties to Cambridge Analytica.

"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.

A Russian Internet company with links to the Kremlin was among the firms Facebook gave an extension allowing them to collect data on unsuspecting users - even after the practice was supposedly stopped, CNN reported Tuesday.

"We have been working closely with the Information Commissioner's Office in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the USA and other countries", he added. "Whilst these concerns about Facebook's advertising model exist generally in relation to its commercial use, they are heightened when these tools are used for political campaigning".

As part of the Wednesday's announcement, the watchdog also announced a criminal prosecution against Cambridge Analytica's parent firm, SCL Elections, over allegations that it didn't hand over evidence related to the data misuse probe.

The ICO investigation found that Facebook "contravened the law by failing to safeguard people's information" and didn't inform its users "about how their information was harvested by others".

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The ICO is also probing another pro-Brexit campaign group, Vote Leave, for sending personal data on United Kingdom citizens to a Cambridge Analytica-like (and possible Cambridge Analytica-affiliated) company called AggregateIQ, which Facebook has kicked off its platform.

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

Damian Collins, the chairman of the U.K. Parliament's media committee, said Wednesday that the company "should now make the results of their internal investigations known to the ICO, our committee and other relevant investigatory authorities".

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's not the first time, however, that Europe has penalized Facebook.

European regulators have been going hard on tech companies lately. The company has said it plans to do so "soon".

The UK's data protection watchdog said the social media giant has failed to ensure Cambridge Analytica had deleted users' data.

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