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11 July 2018, 05:25 | Darnell Patrick
Image Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was questioned by US politicians over the case
Britain's information regulator slapped Facebook with a small but symbolic fine for breaches of data protection law after millions of users' data was improperly accessed by consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Social media giant Facebook was dealt a blow this morning when a prominent United Kingdom watchdog said it planned to impose a maximum fine on the company for two breaches of the Data Protection Act. However, because the abuse took place before the introduction of the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation, which allows fines of up to 4% of global annual revenues, the ICO is only able to fine Facebook £500,000 ($663,610, ) which is the limit under older British data protection law.
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).
"A significant finding of the ICO investigation is the conclusion that Facebook has not been sufficiently transparent to enable users to understand how and why they might be targeted by a political party or campaign", Denham wrote, according to the Post.
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. That probe is still ongoing, but the watchdog released a progress report on Wednesday, plus a separate report containing recommendations about the issue of personal information and political influence.
A Facebook spokeswoman said the company was cooperating fully with an investigation by Australia's privacy commissioner.
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The chair of the parliamentary inquiry Damian Collins said that other apps could also have collected data on users in a similar way to the Cambridge Analytica data.
"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.
The ICO will also make a set of recommendations to the government, including a statutory code of practice for the use of personal data in political campaigns. "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", said the information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham.
David Carroll, an academic who is attempting to recover his data from Cambridge Analytica, said the report strengthened his legal challenge.
Erin Egan, chief privacy officer at Facebook, said: "As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015".
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