Facebook faces record fine over Cambridge Analytica scandal

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit at the San Jose Mc Enery Convention Center in San Jose California

The UK Information Commissioner's Office is threatening the company with the maximum penalty allowed, it said on Wednesday when issuing its first findings in a probe that looked at some 30 organisations, including social-media platforms such as Facebook. The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly investigating whether Facebook's approach to sharing user information violated a 2011 legal agreement that could in theory result in massive fines, though its historic approach to the issue suggests it is more likely to issue a relative slap on the wrist. 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.

Facebook has been hit with a maximum possible fine for allowing political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest the information of millions of people without their consent.

Facebook faces a £500,000 ($665,000) fine from the UK's data protection watchdog, the ICO, for failing to protect netizens' info nor tell them how their data would be harvested by apps.

Don't miss out on the latest news and information. But what about all those millions of users who failed to read all the terms and conditions of the data-harvesting quizzes they took on the site?

Facebook now has the chance to respond to the commissioner's notice of intent, after which a final decision will be made.

The ICO could have levied a much higher and potentially more painful penalty under new European Union rules in place since May 25, where violations could lead to fines of as much as 4 percent of a company's global annual sales.

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The ICO launched an investigation in March into Cambridge Analytica, the UK-based political data analysis firm at the heart of a scandal that's stirred up two national governments and the world's largest social network.

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

Erin Egan, chief privacy officer at Facebook, said: "We have been working closely with the ICO in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the USA and other countries".

Facebook learned of the infraction in 2015 but didn't inform the public. In an accompanying report, Elizabeth Denham, the United Kingdom information commissioner, expressed unease with the "significant shortfall in transparency" from tech companies, political parties and others that harness sensitive bits of information online.

The ICO wants parties to undergo compulsory audits of their use of personal data, including the purchase of marketing lists and lifestyle information to help target voters. "That's why greater and genuine transparency about the use of data analytics is vital".

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