LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s data regulator has said it will fine Facebook half a million pounds ($660,000) for failing to protect users’ data, in an inquiry into whether personal information had been misused by campaigns on both sides of Britain’s 2016 EU referendum.
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An investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has focused on the social media giant since earlier this year, when evidence emerged that an app had been used to harvest the data of tens of millions of Facebook users worldwide.
In a progress report yesterday the watchdog said it plans to issue Facebook with the maximum fine available to it for breaches of the Data Protection Act.
“The ICO’s investigation concluded that Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people’s information,” it said, adding that the company had “failed to be transparent about how people’s data was harvested by others”.
Facebook has admitted that up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked by British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, which was working for US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Cambridge Analytica, which denies the accusations, has since filed for voluntary bankruptcy in the United States and Britain.
“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,” Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in the statement.