SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook is being threatened with its first financial penalty for the improper access of millions of people’s data by Cambridge Analytica: a preliminary fine of 500,000 pounds or $664,000, the maximum penalty allowed, after a probe by U.K. regulators found that Facebook failed to put in place strong enough privacy measures.
Facebook will get a chance to respond to the findings before a final decision is made, the Information Commissioner’s Office said.
Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, says Facebook acknowledges it should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica.
“We have been working closely with the ICO in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the U.S. and other countries,” Egan said in a statement Tuesday. “We’re reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office is leading the European investigation into how the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users and their friends — mostly residents of the United States and the U.K. — were harvested by Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook originally estimated that the data of as many as 2.7 million Europeans might have been shared with Cambridge Analytica. But last month Facebook told European lawmakers that the data may not have been shared after all. Facebook says it won’t know for sure until it can conduct its own audit.
In its probe, the Information Commissioner’s Office said Facebook “failed to be transparent” about how people’s data was harvested. The findings suggest the fallout from Cambridge Analytica could spread.
A probe of Facebook is underway by the Federal Trade Commission, which could result in a penalty in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission are also looking into Facebook’s connections with Cambridge Analytica.
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