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Facebook fined for data scandal

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The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined Facebook £500,000 for ‘serious breaches of data protection law’, the maximum penalty it can impose under previous legislation. 

The fine related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when more than 310,000 Australians may have had their data improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, according to a Facebook update in April. Facebook collected the information of up to 87 million people, mostly in the US, illegitimately, up from the 50 million people originally published. This includes up to one million UK residents, according to the ICO. 

According to a statement, ‘The ICO’s investigation found that between 2007 and 2014, Facebook processed the personal information of users unfairly by allowing application developers access to their information without sufficiently clear and informed consent, and allowing access even if users had not downloaded the app, but were simply ‘friends’ with people who had.’ 

‘Facebook also failed to keep the personal information secure because it failed to make suitable checks on apps and developers using its platform. These failings meant one developer, Dr Aleksandr Kogan and his company GSR, harvested the Facebook data of up to 87 million people worldwide, without their knowledge. A subset of this data was later shared with other organisations, including SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica who were involved in political campaigning in the US.’

The ICO went on to say, ‘Even after the misuse of the data was discovered in December 2015, Facebook did not do enough to ensure those who continued to hold it had taken adequate and timely remedial action, including deletion. In the case of SCL Group, Facebook did not suspend the company from its platform until 2018.’