Facebook faces maximum fine in British Cambridge Analytica inquiry

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The United Kingdom's data protection watchdog has chose 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.

Facebook has said it will be reviewing the report and responding to the ICO soon. The data allegedly helped the Trump campaign target political advertising more accurately by giving them insight into what American Facebook users liked and disliked.

Facebook is facing by the UK's privacy watchdog for allowing Cambridge Analytica to improperly access key personal data on millions of its users.

The Leave.EU campaign, which pushed for the U.K.to leave the EU in the Brexit referendum, is also being investigated for exploiting personal data that people had given to a company for insurance purposes. The office finds that Facebook lacked the privacy protections necessary to catch Cambridge Analytica before it was too late. It's also about half of what the Spanish data protection authorities previous year extracted from to the firm for privacy failings. Facebook initially said the scandal affected about 310,000 Australians in total.

Facebook has said that a Cambridge University lecturer named Aleksandr Kogan collected the data legitimately through a personality quiz app but then violated Facebook's terms by sharing the information with Cambridge Analytica, a firm later hired by the Trump presidential campaign during the 2016 U.S. election. Facebook is now facing inquiries by the U.S. Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.

The British agency said it is still weighing potential penalties against Kogan as well as Alexander Nix, the former chief executive of Cambridge Analytica. In 2017, Facebook generated $40 billion in ad sales. Among the issues they are still probing is an assertion by Cambridge Analytica that it had deleted the data, after the social media giant requested it in 2015.

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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".

The ICO's report said other regulatory action would include a criminal prosecution against Cambridge Analytica's parent firm, SCL Elections, for failing to deal with the regulator's enforcement notice.

It's not the first time, however, that Europe has penalized Facebook.

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

Last year, antitrust regulators in the European Union slapped Facebook with a $122 million fine. Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin wrote this story.

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