The United Kingdom’s data protection watchdog has decided to fine social media giant Facebook £5,00,000 (Rs 4.55 crore) for failing to ensure that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica deleted user data that it had access to. This is the maximum fine the Information Commissioner’s Office can impose, BBC reported on Wednesday.
“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 a statement according to CNBC. “New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters. But this cannot be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office will bring a criminal suit against Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL Elections Limited. It will also send out warning letters and audit notices to 11 political parties, who it alleges have bought personal information from “data brokers” in the past. The commissioner’s office identified one of the companies, Emma’s Diary, as being used by the British Labour Party, BBC said.
Erin Egan, chief privacy officer at Facebook, reiterated the company’s admission that it should have done more to investigate allegations that Cambridge Analytica harvested the information of over 70 million Facebook users to influence the outcome of the United States presidential election in 2016. “We have been working closely with the commissioner’s office in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the US and other countries,” he said. “We’re reviewing the report and will respond to the office soon.”
In May, Cambridge Analytica voluntarily filed for bankruptcy. It also shut down SCL Elections Limited, citing losses.