UK plans maximum fine for Facebook over data breach

Britain's data regulator has said it will fine Facebook half a million pounds for failing to protect users' data. It also accused the social media giant of a lack of transparency about the harvesting of data by others.

As part of an investigation by the UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), evidence had emerged that an app had been used to harvest the data of tens of millions of Facebook users worldwide.

In a progress report Wednesday, the British watchdog said it planned to issue Facebook with the maximum fine available for breaches of the country's Data Protection Act. The ICO said the fine would amount to 500,000 pounds ($660,000, €562,000).

In May, the EU launched stricter data protection laws allowing regulators to fine companies up to €20 million or 4 percent of their annual global turnover. But the ICO said that because of the timing of the incidents involved in its probe, the penalties were limited to those available under previous legislation.

'At a crossroads'

Facebook had admitted that up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked by British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, which was working for US President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

"We are at a crossroads," Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement. "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."

The British fine to hit Facebook comes as the social media company is also confronted with a hefty compensation bill in Australia where litigation funder IMF Bentham said it had lodged a complaint with regulators over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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hg/jd (AFP, Reuters)

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