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Facebook faces first fine over Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook faces first fine over Cambridge Analytica scandal

Britain's data regulator said on Wednesday (Jul 11) it will fine Facebook half a million pounds for failing to protect user data, as part of its investigation into whether personal information was misused ahead of the Brexit referendum.

Facebook is looking at a $664,000 fine after United Kingdom regulators found the company broke data protection laws in its dealings with Cambridge Analytica, but the social network likely avoided a much worse fine that would have been possible under Europe's new stricter privacy laws.

"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.

Facebook, with CA, has been the focus of the ICO's investigation since February when evidence emerged that an app had been used to harvest the data of 50 million Facebook users around the world. The ICO said it was providing the interim report to help that inquiry.

"We are at a crossroads", Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement.

As such, the "investigation into data analytics in political campaigns" has resulted in a number of other regulatory actions and recommendations.

"Facebook users will be rightly concerned that the company left their data far too vulnerable to being collected without their consent by developers working on behalf of companies like Cambridge Analytica".

The social networking giant admitted in April the data of up to 87 million people worldwide - including more than 300,000 in Australia - was harvested by Cambridge Analytica.

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As such it has served Facebook with a notice of intent to fine the biz, and if the sum is coughed up by the web giant as expected, it will be the biggest fine issued by the ICO.

The watchdog also plans to bring criminal charges against Cambridge Analytica's defunct parent company SCL Elections. £500,000 is the maximum allowed under the Data Protection Act 1998, which was in force when the breach occurred.

The British agency said it is still weighing potential penalties against Kogan as well as Alexander Nix, the former chief executive of Cambridge Analytica.

And U.K. regulators pledged additional scrutiny of Facebook to come. But not all the data may have been deleted, according to some reports.

Facebook's annual revenue in 2017 was almost $40 billion, translating to a much higher possible fine of $1.6 billion.

The probe "concluded that Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people's information".

Since its entanglement with Cambridge Analytica became public, Facebook has pledged to review all third-party apps on the platform while introducing new transparency measures, including an online repository of all political ads that run on the site.