LONDON – A United Kingdom data protection authority said on Wednesday it was seeking a 500,000-pound sterling ($662,142) fine against United States-based social network Facebook over its alleged flouting of data protection laws.
In February, the Information Commissioner’s Office began more focused investigations into Facebook and the now-defunct political consultancy Cambridge Analytica over allegations that the data of 87 million users of the social network had been made available for use during campaigning ahead of the UK’s referendum on its European Union membership in June 2016.
The ICO said in a report the sum was being sought over “lack of transparency and security issues relating to the harvesting of data,” which breached UK data protection laws.
According to the ICO, former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie gave evidence that an app had been used to harvest the data of 50 million Facebook users worldwide, but Facebook later bumped up that estimation to 87 million, with about 1 million of them living in the UK.
“A key strand of our investigation surrounds the link between Cambridge Analytica, its parent company SCL Elections Limited and Aggregate IQ and involves allegations that data, obtained from Facebook, may have been misused by both sides in the UK referendum on membership of the EU and used to target voters during the 2016 American presidential election process,” the ICO report said.
A formal investigation was launched in May 2017 over the way data analytics are used in political campaigns to target voters.
The ICO said it does not normally make notices of intent public, but felt that on this occasion it was in the general interest to do so.
Facebook’s chief privacy officer Erin Egan said in a statement: “As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and taken action in 2015,” adding that the company was conducting a review of the report and would respond to the ICO soon.