Published: Wed, July 11, 2018
Global | By Marsha Munoz

British regulator to fine Facebook over data protection breaches

British regulator to fine Facebook over data protection breaches

"Facebook has failed to provide the kinds of protections they're required to do under data protection laws", Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said on a call with reporters.

Facebook is facing its first financial penalty for allowing the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to forage through the personal data of millions of unknowing Facebook users.

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.

Cambridge Analytica shut down its business in May.

Just 53 Australians downloaded the "this is your digital life" Facebook quiz app responsible for the Cambridge Analytica data breach.

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Wednesday's ICO report said: "The ICO's investigation concluded that Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people's information".

Facebook came under fire earlier this year after media outlets reported that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm based in London, had secretly harvested user data that it then used to try and manipulate public opinion. Had the breach occurred after May this year, Facebook may have faced a far greater fine under the new data protection law, a maximum of 4pc of global turnover or €20m (£18m), whichever was highest.

In Facebook's case this would amount to around US$1.6 billion (€1.4 billion). Google might face hefty fines for alleged anti-competition policies.

"We are at a crossroads". She added: '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.

"New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters".

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Denham also called for the government to introduce a statutory code of practice for the use of personal data in political campaigns, adding that "this can not be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law".

Mr Collins said his own committee will publish its interim report about disinformation and data use in political campaigns later this month.

But the ICO said because of the timing of the incidents involved in its inquiry, the penalties were limited to those available under previous legislation.

"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. "We're reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon".

International Monetary Fund investment manager Nathan Landis told The Australian newspaper most awards for privacy breaches ranged between A$1,000 and A$10,000 (US$750-$7,500).

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