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

Compensation sought for Australians caught up in Facebook privacy breach

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) today announced that the social media giant will be fined £500,000 for breaching data protection laws.

The Commons' Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said Ms Denham's inquiry has found that Facebook "contravened the law by failing to safeguard people's information".

The ICO is also planning audits of the main credit reference companies and Cambridge University Psychometric Centre, and ordered Canadian data slurpers Aggregate IQ to stop processing data retained on United Kingdom citizens.

The ICO added that it plans to issue Facebook with the maximum available fine for breaches of the Data Protection Act - an equivalent of US$660,000 or €566,000.

And U.K. regulators pledged additional scrutiny of Facebook to come.

"In the new regime, they would face a much higher fine", Denham said.

"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". According to former Cambridge Analytica data scientist Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower, the firm aimed to construct psychographic profiles it could use to sway the votes of susceptible individuals.

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". 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 led to few lasting repercussions.

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EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova welcomed the ICO report. It's also about half of what the Spanish data protection authorities past year extracted from to the firm for privacy failings.

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). Facebook initially said the scandal affected about 310,000 Australians in total.

ICO, which does not normally publish its findings, said it would give the public another update on its investigation in October.

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".

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.

International Monetary Fund investment manager Nathan Landis told The Australian newspaper most awards for privacy breaches ranged between Aus$1,000 and Aus$10,000 (US$750-US$7,500).

This implies a potential compensation bill of between A$300 million and A$3 billion.

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