Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Britain to fine Facebook over data breach

Britain to fine Facebook over data breach

The UK Information Commissioner's Office is threatening the company with the maximum penalty allowed, it said on Wednesday when issuing its first findings in a probe that looked at some 30 organisations, including social-media platforms such as Facebook.

The report sets out regulatory action taken against a number of the star players in this year's data scandal, including a criminal prosecution against Cambridge Analytica's parent biz SCL Elections Ltd - which has since folded, in name at least - for failing to properly deal with the ICO's enforcement notice. "The complaint seeks financial recompense for the unauthorized access to, and use of, their personal data".

"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". The social giant permitted apps to collect this information until 2015, but the United Kingdom watchdog said Tuesday it was concerned that many people on the site "may not have been sufficiently informed that their data was accessible in this way".

Facebook subsequently went on a sweeping apology tour, and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg appeared before both Congress and members of European Parliament.

'We are at a crossroads.

Politicians are calling for greater transparency from Facebook in light of the ICO fine.

The regulator said Facebook broke the law because it failed to protect people's information, and because it wasn't transparent about how its users' data was being harvested by third parties. "Trust and confidence in the integrity of our democratic processes risk being disrupted because the average voter has little idea of what is going on behind the scenes".

"This can not by left to a secret internal investigation at Facebook. But this can not be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law", wrote Denham in a statement. 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. "People can not have control over their own data if they don't know or understand how it is being used".

The sum is a record penalty imposed by the UK's data watchdog, but by Facebook's standards, it was chump change.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company was cooperating fully with an investigation by Australia's privacy commissioner.

It has also said that, while it pitched for work with campaign group Leave.EU before the Brexit referendum in Britain in 2016, it did not end up doing any work on the campaign.

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