Facebook Is Facing Its First Fine Over the Cambridge Analytica Privacy Scandal

Image Credit Alexandra Popova  Shutterstock

Image Credit Alexandra Popova Shutterstock

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: "New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters".

If the data leak would had taken place after the new GDPR rules which came into action on May 25, the fine levied could have been much higher.

The penalty and resulting fine only comprise a small portion of the ICO's report, which initially was undertaken to investigate the misuse of data during the UK's European Union referendum (AKA, Brexit).

"We have been working closely with the Information Commissioner's Office in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the USA and other countries", he added.

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The amount is the maximum allowed under the Data Protection Act 1998, but is pocket change for a company valued a year ago at around $590bn (£445bn). 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. The British agency said Facebook may have had a "missed opportunity" in 2014 to have thwarted Kogan's activities on the site.

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.

The total is now estimated at 87 million, the ICO said.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) continued that Facebook broke the law by failing to safeguard people's information and failing to be transparent about how people's data was harvested by others.

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The ICO launched an investigation in March into Cambridge Analytica, the UK-based political data analysis firm at the heart of a scandal that's stirred up two national governments and the world's largest social network.

"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", Facebook's chief privacy officer Erin Egan added in a statement reported by the Post. "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".

Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Donald Trump in 2016, has denied its work on the US president's successful election campaign made use of data. Among the issues they are still probing is an assertion by Cambridge Analytica that it had deleted the data, after the social media giant requested it in 2015.

The ICO said it expects to have wrapped up these investigations by the end of October.

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