Facebook showed 'disturbing disregard for voters' privacy'

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham slammed the social media platform's business practices.

Facebook and other social media platforms has shown a "disturbing disregard for voters’ personal privacy," says the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) chief.

Elizabeth Denham said the ICO "had little idea of what was to come" when it launched an investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes in May 2017 following the Cambridge Analytica scandal that exploded in the months before.

She called for a code of practice covering the use of data in campaigns and elections in a bid to simplify current rules and give assurance about using such personal information as a political tool.

Denham wrote in the ICO blog: "We are at a crossroads. Trust and confidence in the integrity of our democratic processes risks being disrupted because the average person has little idea of what is going on behind the scenes.

"This must change. People can only make truly informed choices about who to vote for if they are sure those decisions have not been unduly influenced."

The ICO investigation has extended to 30 organisations, with formal interviews of 33 individuals and a forensic analysis of 700 terabytes of data (the equivalent of 52 billion pages).

Back in October, the ICO fined Facebook the maximum of $500,000 for failing to comply with data laws.  

Giving evidence to the U.K. parliament at an inquiry into fake news today, Denham said she was "astounded" by the amount of data held by firms like Facebook, stressing to MPs that the social media platform needs to "significantly change its business practices."

She added: "There is a fundamental tension between its business model and the protection of the privacy of users’ data."

Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie has spoken to Campaign about the need for effective regulation and warned that unchecked data capture could lead to society sleepwalking into a bleak future.

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