Watchdog urges record £500000 fine for Facebook over Cambridge Analytica data scandal

Not just another Facebook data scandal

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).

The probe "concluded that Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people's information".

For the United Kingdom, the key consideration has been the extent to which Facebook data - once in the hands of Cambridge Analytica and its parent company, SCL Elections - may have been used to assist those who supported a vote to leave the European Union, known as Brexit.

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Damian Collins MP, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that has been investigating Cambridge Analytica, said: "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. 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. It's also about half of what the Spanish data protection authorities past year extracted from to the firm for privacy failings.

Facebook now has the chance to respond to the commissioner's notice of intent, after which a final decision will be made.

"As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015", said Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer. The firm had links to Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016 and had been under investigation by ICO since May 2017.

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In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook notified users who were affected by the data misuse with alerts at the tops of their news feeds. "But this can not be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law", she said in a statement. 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. "We're reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon".

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.

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