United Kingdom plans maximum fine for Facebook over data breach

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The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) began investigating the social media giant earlier this year, when evidence emerged that an app had been used to harvest the data of tens of millions of Facebook users worldwide.

The office, which usually does not publish its findings, said that it was doing so due to increased public interest in the subject, according to the Post.

"We are fully cooperating with the investigation now under way by the Australian Privacy Commissioner and will review any additional evidence that is made available when the UK Office of the Information Commissioner releases their report", the spokeswoman said.

It could be the first in a series of penalties for Facebook, political parties, data companies and academics as a result of the scandal. "We're reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon".

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Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: "New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters".

British politicians are now calling on Facebook to be more transparent about its internal investigation into data misuse. "Whilst these concerns about Facebook's advertising model exist generally in relation to its commercial use, they are heightened when these tools are used for political campaigning". Her office is leading the European investigations into how such an amount of data - most belonging to United States and UK residents, she says - could have ended up in the hands of a consulting firm that worked on Donald Trump's U.S. presidential campaign.

In a roughly 40-page report, British regulators faulted Facebook for allowing Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan to build an app that collected data about Facebook users as well as their friends on behalf of Cambridge Analytica.

The total is now estimated at 87 million, the ICO said.

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The watchdog also announced plans to a bring a criminal action against Cambridge Analytica's defunct parent company SCL Elections. The General Data Protection Regulation, more commonly called the GDPR, allowed for a maximum fine of 20 million euros or 4 percent of a company's annual global revenue from the year before, whichever is higher.

Denham claims Facebook broke the law by not being able to protect people's information and hadn't been open about how data was harvested from their platform.

In Facebook's case this would amount to around US$1.6 billion (€1.4 billion).

Facebook's annual revenue in 2017 was almost $40 billion, translating to a much higher possible fine of $1.6 billion. The agency said Tuesday that the social media giant "contravened the law by failing to safeguard people's information".

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"The number of Facebook users affected by this kind of data scraping may be far greater than has now been acknowledged".

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