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United Kingdom watchdog ICO fines Facebook £500,000 over Cambridge Analytica

11 July 2018

The amount is the maximum allowed under the Data Protection Act 1998, but is pocket change for a company valued past year at around $590bn (£445bn).

Britain's Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she intends to fine Facebook 500,000 pounds ($663,850), the maximum amount allowed, Reuters reported.

Media Committee chairman Damian Collins commented: "Given that the ICO is saying that Facebook broke the law, it is essential that we now know which other apps that ran on their platform may have scraped data in a similar way".

The ICO's chief, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, also issued a statement regarding the findings, saying that the United Kingdom is "at a crossroads" when it comes to data and privacy.

Facebook is facing a class action in Australia for allegedly breaching privacy laws over the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal.

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

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".

"The alleged breaches surround the circumstances in which a third party, Cambridge Analytica, gained unauthorized access to users' profiles and information. 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", Denham said.

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"It's an important moment for data protection", she added.

Facebook's chief privacy officer Erin Egan said in response to the ICO's report: "As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and taken action in 2015".

"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".

The EU in May launched strict new data-protection laws allowing regulators to fine companies up to €20 million (US$24 million) or four percent of annual global turnover.

The ICO said its investigation is continuing and the next phase is expected to be concluded by the end of October.

"This can not by left to a secret internal investigation at Facebook". The U.K.'s investigation found "evidence that copies of the data/parts of it also seem to have been shared with other parties and on other systems beyond", which "potentially brings into question the accuracy" of Cambridge Analytica's assertion that it wiped the data from its stores.

"Facebook users will be rightly concerned that the company left their data far too vulnerable to being collected without their consent by developers working on behalf of companies like Cambridge Analytica".

United Kingdom watchdog ICO fines Facebook £500,000 over Cambridge Analytica