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United Kingdom plans maximum fine for Facebook over data breach

12 July 2018
United Kingdom plans maximum fine for Facebook over data breach

The United Kingdom's data protection watchdog has made a decision to fine social media giant Facebook £5,00,000 (Rs 4.55 crore) for failing to ensure that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica deleted user data that it had access to.

In a statement the company said it had lodged a representative complaint with the Office of the Australia Information Commissioner (OAIC) that seeks compensation for "alleged breaches of the Australian Privacy Principles contained in the Privacy Act 1998".

In response, Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer said: "As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015. We're reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon". The data allegedly helped the Trump campaign target political advertising more accurately by giving them insight into what American Facebook users liked and disliked.

The survey results were allegedly used by election consultants Cambridge Analytica to target voters in USA elections, including Donald Trump's presidential campaign. "It also found that the company failed to be transparent about how people's data was harvested by others".

"We must change this fast as no-one should win elections using illegally obtained data", she said, adding: "We will now assess what can we do at the European Union level to make political advertising more transparent and our elections more secure". Facebook initially said the scandal affected about 310,000 Australians in total. Her office is leading the European investigations into how such an amount of data-most belonging to US and United Kingdom residents, she says-could have ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a consulting firm that worked on Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is still investigating Facebook, and is yet to penalize the company. According to former Cambridge Analytica data scientist Christopher Wylie, the firm aimed to construct psychographic profiles it could use to sway the votes of susceptible individuals.

The report also initiates the prosecution of SCL Elections Ltd, which is Cambridge Analytica's parent company, "for failing to properly deal with the ICO's Enforcement Notice". "We have been working closely with the ICO in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the USA and other countries". In 2017, Facebook generated $40 billion in ad sales.

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

It's not the first time, however, that Europe has penalized Facebook.

Facebook's revenue previous year totalled $40.7bn (£30.7bn), so half a million pounds.

The probe "concluded that Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people's information". Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin wrote this story.