Facebook Guilty
News | 07/16/2018

Facebook fined with £500,000 over Cambridge Analytica data scandal

About: Facebook fined with £500,000 in the UK by UK's Data Regulator as it failed to protect its user's data and wasn't transparent about how personal information was being used by others. Let us read more to know how data breach occurred and how wa...  Read More  

| News | Facebook fined with £500,000 over Cambridge Analytica data scandal

Facebook has been slammed with a fine of £500,000 ($664,000) in the UK for breaking Data Protection laws. The fine was imposed after UK’s data regulator performed a wide ranging investigation into the Cambridge Analytica scandal and found Facebook guilty of non – compliance of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) as:

  • The company failed to protect its user’s personal data.
  • Facebook guilty as failed to be transparent about how the personal data was being harvested by the third parties.

What is Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica is a London-based company that helps business and political groups to muster up data on voters during electoral processes. This data is then analyzed to conduct strategic communication and to create effective slogans and campaign messages. The company was started in 2013 as an offshoot of SCL (Strategic Communication Laboratories) group.

Facebook Guilty

Social media platforms like Facebook are used as a source to collect data.

Cambridge Analytica has been subjected to numerous accusations related to data breach over past several months, and has also been vilified for several illegal activities.

Why is Facebook guilty?

Cambridge is accused of inappropriately gaining access to data of over 87 million Facebook users in the US. The motive behind this malevolent act was to gather user data to help get their client Donuld Trump elected.

The alleged breach came to light when Christopher Wylie, Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower revealed that they exploited Facebook profiles of millions of people. Facebook has been under scrutiny since then.

How did Facebook data breach occur ?

According to the social media giant, a Cambridge psychology professor, Aleksandr Kogan built an app called “thisisyourdigitallife” in 2015.

The app took a detailed online personality test that asked users to provide information about themselves. The test answers helped the culprits to gather personal information about the user.

Furthermore, to take the test users had to login to their Facebook accounts. The act of logging into Facebook gave the malicious Quiz app access to following information from Facebook Users’ account:

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Gender
  • Current City
  • Email addresses
  • Friends’ list
  • Pages liked by users
  • Posts on users timeline
  • News feed posts
  • Photographs where users are tagged
  • Facebook messages
  • Facebook posts
  • Users interests and many more

Moreover the quiz app also requested permissions from the test seekers to access following information about their Facebook friends:

  • Public profile
  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Current City
  • Gender
  • Pages liked by users
  • Photographs where users are tagged and many more

Only 270,000 Facebook users actually signed up to take the personality test. However, the app also stealthily harvested the data of the user’s Facebook friends. This led to the total of approximately 87 million people’s data to be compromised and framed Facebook guilty.

Kogan alleges to have shared the information obtained from the app with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook was aware of the data harvesting in 2015 and repeatedly asked companies holding the data to delete it. However there was no evidence to make sure if this was done.

This dodgy data harvesting violates Facebook’s own data policy. Allegations of misuse of Facebook user data is an unacceptable violation of citizens’ privacy rights.

However, the final decision on the £500,000 fine is yet to be made and Facebook still has a chance to respond to the UK’s ICO’s (Information Commissioner’s office) Notice of Intent before that.

New data protection regulation, GDPR threatens to slap companies with bigger fines ahead:

Considering the year of the scandal, the ICO fine has been imposed under old UK law. However the law has been replaced by the new EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

ICO’s fine of £500,000 is small for a company that made $11.97 billion in revenues in the first quarter of 2018 alone. However this amount is maximum as per UK’s Data Protection Act 1998, and equals to what Facebook earns every 8 minutes.

As per new data protection regulation GDPR, however, the fine for such a crime would be up to 4 percent of global annual turnover or 20 million euros ($23.5 million) — whichever amount is larger

Facebook, along with Google, is also facing legal complaints from privacy activist Max Schrems that could also lead to billions in fines. Facebook and the Facebook-owned platforms WhatsApp and Instagram are accused of forcing user to grant access to their data, a practice which again violates GDPR

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