UK lawmaker says fine imposed on Facebook over user privacy

In this April 18, 2017, file photo, conference workers speak in front of a demo booth at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. (AP)
Updated 11 July 2018
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UK lawmaker says fine imposed on Facebook over user privacy

  • Facebook has been under scrutiny since allegations surfaced that London-based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts
  • The ICO investigation found that Facebook “contravened the law by failing to safeguard people’s information”

LONDON: Facebook is facing its first financial penalty for allowing the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica to forage through the personal data of millions of unknowing Facebook users.
A UK government office that investigated the Cambridge Analytica scandal announced its intention to fine Facebook 500,000 pounds ($663,000) for failing to safeguard that user information. The amount is the maximum that the agency, the Information Commissioner’s Office, can levy for violation of Britain’s data-privacy laws.
The penalty is a pittance for Facebook, which generates that sum roughly every seven minutes, based on its first-quarter revenue of $11.97 billion. 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.
Cambridge Analytica, a London firm financed by wealthy Republican donors, worked for the 2016 Trump campaign and for a while employed Steve Bannon, the CEO of President Donald Trump’s campaign and later a White House adviser.
Facebook said the company illicitly gained access to personal information of up to 87 million users via an academic intermediary, although the firm said the number was much smaller than that. According to former Cambridge Analytica data scientist Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower, the firm aimed to construct psychographic profiles it could use to sway the votes of susceptible individuals.
Cambridge Analytica shut down its business in May.
The ICO investigation found that Facebook “contravened the law by failing to safeguard people’s information” and didn’t inform its users “about how their information was harvested by others.” The office’s decision isn’t yet final. Facebook will have an opportunity to respond to the findings, after which the office will render a final judgment.
Damian Collins, the chairman of the UK Parliament’s media committee, said Wednesday that the company “should now make the results of their internal investigations known to the ICO, our committee and other relevant investigatory authorities.”
Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, said in a statement that the company is reviewing the ICO report and will respond soon. She added: “As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015.”
Facebook faces several other investigations, including others in Europe, a probe by the US Federal Trade Commission and, reportedly, several others at federal agencies such as the FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission.


HRW slams Morocco over journalist’s 3-year jail term

Updated 58 min 43 sec ago
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HRW slams Morocco over journalist’s 3-year jail term

  • Hamid el Mahdaoui was sentenced in June for “not denouncing” attempts to harm state security
  • Well known for criticising the Moroccan government on social media, Mahdaoui is already serving a one-year sentence

TUNIS: Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized a Morocco court on Wednesday for sentencing a prominent journalist to three years in prison on a “dubious charge” relating to a northern protest movement.
Hamid el Mahdaoui was sentenced in June for “not denouncing” attempts to harm state security after he received a call from a man who said he planned to create armed strife in Morocco.
The court had rejected Mahdaoui’s defense that as a journalist he often receives calls from strangers and that he felt the man’s claims were “idle chatter,” HRW said.
Well known for criticizing the Moroccan government on social media, Mahdaoui is already serving a one-year sentence for inciting protests.
He received the call during the thousands-strong Al-Hirak al-Shaabi (Popular Movement) demonstrations that rocked the Rif region in 2016 and 2017.
HRW’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said the charges against him “reek of an arbitrary use of the law on an outspoken journalist by authorities who have been radically reducing the space for critical reporting and commentary.”