Thirty organisations, including Facebook, are being investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office as part of its probe into the use of personal data and analytics for political purposes, the body has said.
As well as the social media giant, Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ have also been named as being under investigation, though the ICO would not reveal the names of any of the other organisations.
On Wednesday, Facebook said the personal information of up to 87 million users, mostly in the United States, may have been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, more than previous estimates.
As Facebook grapples with the unfolding data scandal, more and more worrying details continue to emerge. The latest indicates the issue, which Zuckerberg himself called a ‘breach of trust,’ affected many more users than initially suspected
In a statement, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: ‘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.
‘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.
‘Facebook hss 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.
WHAT IS THE CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA SCANDAL?
Communications firms Cambridge Analytica has offices in London, New York, Washington, as well as Brazil and Malaysia.
The company boasts it can ‘find your voters and move them to action’ through data-driven campaigns and a team that includes data scientists and behavioural psychologists.
‘Within the United States alone, we have played a pivotal role in winning presidential races as well as congressional and state elections,’ with data on more than 230 million American voters, Cambridge Analytica claims on its website.
The company profited from a feature that meant apps could ask for permission to access your own data as well as the data of all your Facebook friends.
It was initially estimated that the firm was able to mine the information of 55 million Facebook users even though just 270,000 people gave them permission to do so.
But, Facebook has since revealed the number was actually as high as 87 million.
This was designed to help them create software that can predict and influence voters’ choices at the ballot box.
The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.
This information is said to have been used to help the Brexit campaign in the UK.
‘This is an important time for privacy rights. Transparency and accountability must be considered, otherwise it will be impossible to rebuild trust in the way that personal information is obtained, used and shared online.
‘This is why, besides my investigation, which could result in enforcement action, I will also be making clear public policy recommendations to help us understand how our personal data is used online and what we can do to control how it’s used.’
Facebook’s Chief Technology Office Mike Schroepfer revealed the firm shared data with Cambridge Analytica was much higher than the initial media estimates of roughly 50 million.
Schroepfer shared the new figures in a blog post outlining nine changes the firm is making to the platform in light of the massive data scandal that unfolded last month.
According to the CTO, most of the affected users were in the United States.
In the post, the Facebook exec also revealed the troubling ease with which ‘malicious actors’ could ‘scrape’ public information from most users’ profiles.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the growing scandal in a media call on Wednesday afternoon, admitting the firm ‘didn’t do enough’ to protect user data or to prevent the spread of disinformation.
Zuckerberg admitted the firm made a ‘huge mistake’ in failing to take a broad enough view of what Facebook’s responsibility is in the world.
‘It’s my mistake,’ the Facebook CEO added.
Referring to the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, in which a consultancy firm was able to access millions of users’ data and use it to target voters during political campaigns, he said that it isn’t enough for Facebook to believe app developers when they say they follow the rules.
He says Facebook has to ensure they do.
‘Life is learning from mistakes,’ Zuckerberg told reporters, according to CNET.
‘At the end of the day, this is my responsibility. I started this place, I run it, I’m responsible.’
‘We know now we didn’t do enough to focus on preventing abuse and thinking through how people use these tools to do harm,’ the Facebook CEO added.
Zuckerberg is due to address the US Congress next week but will not appear in front of UK MPs, despite repeated requests to do so by Damian Collins, chairman of the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
London-based Cambridge Analytica, which has counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign among its clients, disputed Facebook’s estimate of affected users.
On Wednesday, Chief Technology Office Mike Schroepfer (pictured) revealed the firm shared data of up to 87 million users with the political consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica – a dramatic increase from initial media estimates of roughly 50 million
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’.
It said in a statement on Wednesday that it received no more than 30 million records from a researcher it hired to collect data about people on Facebook.
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.’
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.’