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Facebook one of 30 companies under investigation after CA fallout

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is conducting an investigation into 30 different organisations, including Facebook, over their usage of personal data for political purposes.

Facebook recently revised the number of users whose data was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica (CA) from 50 million to 87 million people, which includes over a million British citizens.

“As part of my investigation into the use of personal data and analytics by political campaigns, parties, social media companies and other commercial actors, the ICO is investigating 30 organisations, including Facebook,” said information commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

“The ICO is looking at how data was collected from a third party app on Facebook and shared with Cambridge Analytica. We are also conducting a broader investigation into how social media platforms were used in political campaigning.”

The information commissioner is an independent official with a mission is to “uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals”.

The body – which has the power to prosecute or fine any companies that it believes to have breached data protection laws – said it was not releasing a full list of the organisations under investigation, but confirmed that CA and Aggregate IQ were also among the 30 organisations.

Denham said: “Facebook has been co-operating with us and, while I am pleased with the changes they are making, it is too early to say whether they are sufficient under the law.”

Shortly before the announcement, Culture Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that he would be meeting with Facebook next week and said: “I expect Facebook to explain why they put the data of over a million of our citizens at risk. This is completely unacceptable, and they must demonstrate this won’t happen again.”

CA has been warned it could face compensation claims from affected Facebook users if it is established that it used their data for political purposes “without having a lawful basis for doing so”.

Sean Humber, an information lawyer from Leigh Day, said: “Ultimately, people have a legal right to know if Cambridge Analytica hold information about them and, if they do, what information they hold and what they have done with it (including whether they have passed it on to anyone else). If there is no adequate response to these requests, legal action can be taken to require them to comply.”

CA said it is “not a data controller for any information on UK citizens” and is not in breach of the Data Protection Act, adding that it had deleted all the data from research company GSR, which collected it using a personality app.

“Cambridge Analytica deleted all GSR data and its derivatives after we were told that Facebook’s terms of services had been broken, and we certified this to Facebook,” it said in a statement.

Facebook said it will on Monday begin informing users whose information may have been improperly shared with CA.

Aside from the CA scandal, Facebook came under attack yesterday for marketing tobacco products at children. 

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