Facebook fined Sh66.8 million over Cambridge data harvesting row

Compensation sought for Australians caught up in Facebook privacy breach

Facebook is staring down its first fine for allowing Cambridge Analytica to improperly access data about millions of people, potentially opening the door for governments around the world to slap the social media giant with other tougher penalties and stricter regulation.

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", said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

As such, the "investigation into data analytics in political campaigns" has resulted in a number of other regulatory actions and recommendations.

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.

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It later launched an investigation that included political parties, data analytics companies and major social media platforms. "We have been working closely with the ICO in their investigation".

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In March 2017, the ICO began looking into whether personal data had been misused by campaigns on both sides of the UK's 2016 European Union referendum. In an accompanying report, Elizabeth Denham, the United Kingdom information commissioner, expressed unease with the "significant shortfall in transparency" from tech companies, political parties and others that harness sensitive bits of information online.

Facebook will get a chance to respond to the proposed penalties before the ICO releases a final decision.

Specifically, Facebook is being fined for two breaches to the act, which the official ICO report lists as "failing to safeguard people's information" and "failing to be transparent about how people's data was harvested by others". "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".

The chair of the parliamentary inquiry Damian Collins said that other apps could also have collected data on users in a similar way to the Cambridge Analytica data.

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". However, it did so today because a parliamentary committee is also probing the issue of Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and political influence, and the ICO wanted to help inform the committee's work. The amount is the maximum that the agency, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), can levy for violation of Britain's data-privacy laws.

David Carroll, an academic who is attempting to recover his data from Cambridge Analytica, said the report strengthened his legal challenge.

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