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Facebook hit with £500k fine over Cambridge Analytica scandal

(Image credit: Image Credit: Endermasali / Shutterstock)

Facebook is facing a £500k fine in the UK after the country's data protection watchdog found that the social media giant failed to ensure that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had deleted all of the user data in had collected.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will also bring legal action against the now defunct parent company of Cambridge Analytica, SCL Elections.

The ICO also called out a number of companies used by political parties to buy personal information including the parenting resource company Emma's Diary used by the Labour Party and Aggregate IQ which worked alongside the Vote Leave campaign before the EU Referendum.

The fine on Facebook was revealed as part of the ICO's report investigating whether personal data had been misused by political campaigns during the 2016 referendum. The ICO will also send warning letters and audit notices to 11 political parties.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham highlighted the threat that illegal data sharing poses in a statement, saying:

“We are at a crossroads. 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. New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters. But this cannot be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law.”

While the fine levied against Facebook by the ICO may be smaller than previous sanctions brought against the social network, it is still the maximum possible fine the watchdog can impose.

“Ethical and transparent data means clarity. Clarity on where your data will reside, what it will be used for and who can access it, and with whom it will be shared," commented Frank Bien, CEO of Looker.

“Even as we’ve witnessed seemingly benign data being harvested and weaponised, we believe there is a clear opportunity for data to be harnessed for good. Businesses of all sizes need to prioritise the long-term greater good over the short-term bottom line. In short, businesses need to be willing to leave money on the table if partners or potential partners don’t protect user data."

Image Credit: Endermasali / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.