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facebook data scandal

Facebook's value has dropped $50bn following the data scandal which saw 50 million users' personal data being scraped and shared with data firm Cambridge Analytica, without their knowledge.

The scandal started in 2014, when Facebook users were paid to take part in a quiz by University of Cambridge academic, Aleksandr Kogan. This subsequently resulted in participants' personal data, as well as their friends' data, being harvested.

A whistleblower alleges this data was sold on to Cambridge Analytica who used it for psychological profiling and, it's claimed, to also influence voting in American and other elections.

Let's see what GDPR principles may have been broken in this data scandal and what the various infringements are:

  • It waited several years before admitting data harvesting, despite being warned by journalists in 2015 about the breach.
  • It failed to ensure proper accountability and implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to safeguard personal data - other apps harvested personal data using Facebook's infrastructure which was not locked down until 2015 to prevent that happening.
  • It's unlikely that Data Protection Impact Assessment or Privacy Impact Assessment would have been facebook data scandalcarried out.
  • Facebook had no proper control over third parties - it didn't audit them properly to see what personal data they had, or carry out checks to verify whether they had in fact deleted that data, relying instead on self-certification.
  • The firm had a poor understanding overall of its personal data landscape.
  • There were likely breaches relating to the international transfers of personal data.
  • With no proper control over third parties, can Facebook really deliver on the right to be forgotten or right to rectification in the future - and with so many others in the supply chain and various other Facebook apps potentially still having access to personal data?
  • Proper consent was not obtained from those in friends' networks - who were unaware their data had even been harvested and shared.
  • Since users were unaware of automated profiling, they could not exercise their right to object to it or confirm that the data accurately represented their views.
  • Facebook failed to notify users about the breach - something it is required to do under its consent decree with the Federal Trade Agreement and data protection laws.
  • If rumours of Cambridge Analytica's involvement in elections are true and voting preferences were scraped too, we can add serious breaches of the rules on special category (sensitive) data to the list.

With many of these infringements attracting the maximum fine of €20m or 4% of annual global turnover, it's going to be a challenging year for the tech giant. Based on its annual turnover of $27.64 billion US dollars in 2016, under GDPR the firm would face a whopping €900m fine. Hmm, slightly more than the €20m fine, then, and that doesn't even consider the very many different offences committed here.

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