Facebook will be hit with a record £500,000 (Sh66.8 million) fine over the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal.
It is the largest possible penalty that can be handed out by Britain’s information watchdog, which found the social media giant had broken the law by failing to safeguard millions of users’ data.
The Information Commissioner’s Office announced the fine as it revealed it was preparing a criminal prosecution against Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Elections Ltd. It has also sent ‘warning letters’ to 11 political parties in the UK.
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.
The watchdog is investigating whether data obtained from Facebook was misused by both the Leave and Remain campaigns during the EU referendum, and in the 2016 US presidential election.
Facebook has admitted the scandal – in which the personal information of 87million people was harvested by a quiz app and sold to a political campaign agency – was ‘clearly a breach of trust’.
The social network’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has apologised for an ‘oversight’ which allowed the personality quiz to mine the information of users.
Facebook shut down the data sharing tool in 2014 and has said it became aware the data had been sold in 2015, but was assured it was deleted.
The social media giant has said it has since identified 200 other apps which may have been used the same way, and is investigating.