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11 July 2018, 02:16 | Glen Norman
Image Credit Alexandra Popova Shutterstock
The Information Commissioner's Office announced the fine as it revealed it was preparing a criminal prosecution against Cambridge Analytica's parent company, SCL Elections Ltd.
The UK's ICO - aka the Information Commissioner's Office - on Wednesday ruled Facebook had twice broken British data protection laws - by failing to safeguard people's information, and by failing to be properly transparent about how that info can be used.
Facebook is facing by the UK's privacy watchdog for allowing Cambridge Analytica to improperly access key personal data on millions of its users.
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"As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015", Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said in a statement.
Facebook, which gets to "make representations" to the ICO before the regulator finalizes the fine, had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.
Cambridge Analytica, a London firm financed by wealthy Republican donors, worked for the 2016 Trump campaign and for a while employed Steve Bannon, the Trump campaign CEO and later a White House adviser. If the incidents had occurred more recently - such as after the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) had taken effect - the company could have faced fines of £17 million, or even £1.4 billion (around 4% of its global turnover). The ICO wants parties to undergo compulsory audits of their use of personal data, including the purchase of marketing lists and lifestyle information to help target voters.
The ICO isn't just looking at Facebook and Cambridge Analytica-indeed, it folded this affair into a pre-existing investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns. "We're reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon". It's also about half of what the Spanish data protection authorities past year extracted from to the firm for privacy failings.
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". "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.
The next phase of the ICO's work is expected to be concluded by the end of October.
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A Russian Internet company with links to the Kremlin was among the firms Facebook gave an extension allowing them to collect data on unsuspecting users - even after the practice was supposedly stopped, CNN reported Tuesday. "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".
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