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

Facebook faces record fine over Cambridge Analytica scandal

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.

But it would represent the first tangible punishment for the company's privacy scandal, which tarnished its reputation, temporarily pushed down its shares and forced CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress, but otherwise had few lasting repercussions.

Social media giant Facebook was dealt a blow this morning when a prominent United Kingdom watchdog said it planned to impose a maximum fine on the company for two breaches of the Data Protection Act. "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", Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said 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 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.

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

British authorities also said Tuesday they are bringing a "criminal prosecution" against the parent company for SCL Elections Limited, for failing to respond to its enforcement notices.

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

"This can not by left to a secret internal investigation at Facebook". If other developers broke the law we have a right to know, and the users whose data may have been compromised in this way should be informed. "We're reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon".

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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.

The decision was welcomed by former Cambridge Analytica employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie.

Mr Collins said his own committee will publish its interim report about disinformation and data use in political campaigns later this month. It's also about half of what the Spanish data protection authorities a year ago extracted from to the firm for privacy failings.

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