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

Facebook has been under scrutiny since allegations surfaced that London-based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to help United States President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. "We are fully cooperating with the investigation now underway 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", a Facebook spokesperson said.

Apart from Facebook, the probe is also covering more companies and there are plans to send warning letters to 11 political parties.

"The complaint seeks financial recompense for the unauthorised access to, and use of, their personal data".

A Russian Internet company with links to the Kremlin was among the firms Facebook gave an extension allowing them to collect data on unsuspecting users - even after the practice was supposedly stopped, CNN reported Tuesday.

But it would represent the first tangible punishment for the company's privacy scandal, which tarnished its reputation, temporarily pushed down its shares and forced CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress, but otherwise led to few lasting repercussions. Facebook initially said the scandal affected about 310,000 Australians in total.

"Facebook has failed to provide the kinds of protections they're required to do under data protection laws", Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said on a call with reporters. "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", Denham said.

She said: "We are at a crossroads. But this can not be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law".

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'People can not have control over their own data if they don't know or understand how it is being used.

But the anti-Brexit Britain Stronger in Europe campaign is also being investigated over its collection and sharing of personal data.

The ICO is also investigating 29 other social media companies, political campaigns, parties and other commercial actors over their roles in the European Union referendum.

"Everyone from social media firms, political parties and data brokers seem to be taking advantage of new technologies and micro-targeting techniques with very limited transparency and responsibility towards voters", she said.

Damian Collins, chair of the DCMS committee said: "Given that the ICO is saying that Facebook broke the law, it is essential that we now know which other apps that ran on their platform may have scraped data in a similar way".

Facebook has a chance to respond to the ICO before a final decision is made on the fine.

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