Compensation sought for Australians caught up in Facebook privacy breach

Compensation sought for Australians caught up in Facebook privacy breach

The social media giant has been under pressure from governments in Europe and the US since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, revealing that the consulting company gained access to the personal data of 87 million Facebook users from an academic researcher.

Specifically, Facebook is being fined for two breaches to the act, which the official ICO report lists as "failing to safeguard people's information" and "failing to be transparent about how people's data was harvested by others".

The New York Times notes that the United Kingdom watchdog's fine is Facebook's first penalty, but it may herald more punitive action against the company.

"As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015", Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said in a statement sent to HuffPost.

Despite the proposed fine being a record for the watchdog, campaigners said it was "unacceptable", as under new data laws the penalty could have totalled more than £450 million. 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.

Finally, in a hugely optimistic bid, Denham has called for an "ethical pause" to allow lawmakers, regulators, political parties, online platforms and the public "to reflect on their responsibilities in the era of big data before there is a greater expansion in the use of new technologies". "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.

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The firm had links to Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016 and had been under investigation by ICO since May 2017.

The report also initiates the prosecution of SCL Elections Ltd, which is Cambridge Analytica's parent company, "for failing to properly deal with the ICO's Enforcement Notice".

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". The U.K.'s investigation found "evidence that copies of the data/parts of it also seem to have been shared with other parties and on other systems beyond", which "potentially brings into question the accuracy" of Cambridge Analytica's assertion that it wiped the data from its stores.

Facebook can respond to the commissioner before a final decision is made, and said it was reviewing the report and would respond soon.

The next phase of the ICO's work is expected to be concluded by the end of October.

It is the first financial penalty Facebook's has faced since the data leak was revealed earlier this year.

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