Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Fine imposed on Facebook over user privacy - United Kingdom lawmaker

The Silicon Valley tech giant is facing its first financial penalty as the United Kingdom has imposed the maximum penalty of £500,000 (around $664,000) over Facebook's Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal.

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

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.

Under Australian law, all organizations must take "reasonable steps" to ensure personal information is held securely and IMF Bentham has teamed up with a major law firm to lodge a complaint with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIO).

In a roughly 40-page report, British regulators faulted Facebook for allowing Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan to build an app that collected data about Facebook users as well as their friends on behalf of Cambridge Analytica.

The survey results were allegedly used by election consultants Cambridge Analytica to target voters in U.S. elections, including Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Facebook can respond to the commissioner before a final decision is made, and said it was reviewing the report and would respond soon.

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

The ICO is also launching a criminal prosecution against SCL Elections, an organisation affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, and has sent warning letters to 11 political parties and "notices compelling them to agree to audits of their data protection policies".

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

"This can not by left to a secret internal investigation at Facebook".

"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, according to the Post.

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

"It's an important moment for data protection", she added.

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