Watchdog urges record £500000 fine for Facebook over Cambridge Analytica data scandal

Daniel Leal-olivas  AFP  Getty Images

Daniel Leal-olivas AFP Getty Images

The fine - the maximum amount allowed - comes after revelations that as many as 87 million Facebook users had their data improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, a digital consultancy with ties to the Trump campaign.

The tech giant is accused of not properly protecting user data and not sharing how people's data was harvested by others. "But this can not be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law", ICO's information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said in a statement.

Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by Donald Trump in 2016, has denied its work on the USA president's successful election campaign made use of data.

Facebook will get a chance to respond to the proposed penalties before the ICO releases a final decision.

"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.

"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.

"This can not by left to a secret internal investigation at Facebook".

"The number of Facebook users affected by this kind of data scraping may be far greater than has now been acknowledged". If other developers broke the law we have a right to know, and the users whose data may have been compromised in this way should be informed.

"Facebook should now make the results of their internal investigations known to the ICO, our committee and other relevant investigatory authorities". 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.

Mr Collins said his own committee will publish its interim report about disinformation and data use in political campaigns later this month.

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. Last year, antitrust regulators in the European Union slapped Facebook with a $122 million fine. The company has said it plans to do so "soon".

"It's an important moment for data protection", she added.