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EU demands Facebook security & privacy audit, UK slaps company with $640,000 fine

In response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the European Parliament this week adopted a resolution calling on Facebook to take actions to stop interference in elections, and let E.U. agencies perform a full audit of the company's data protection.

Cambridge Analytica's data "may have been used for political purposes, by both sides in the U.K. referendum on membership of the E.U. and to target voters during the 2016 American presidential election," the European Parliament said in an announcement. The resolution comes after a May meeting between MEPs and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, as well as three later hearings.

To block parties from manipulating public opinion through Facebook, the resolution proposes several strategies. These include applying "offline" campaign rules to the online realm, flagging paid political ads and the groups behind them, and banning profiling for electoral use. To counter disinformation, it's recommended that social networks speed up the removal of fake accounts and cooperate with academic and fact-checking groups.

Most significantly it's proposed that "investigations should be carried out by member states with the support of Eurojust, into alleged misuse of the online political space by foreign forces."

The announcement's language omits any specific reference to Russia, which is known to have used social networks to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and the U.K.'s Brexit referendum.

Cambridge Analytica and Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan used a quiz app to collect data on Facebook users and their connected friends, the latter without consent, enabling Analytica to build voter profiles for some 71 million Americans and a smaller amount of people overseas. Facebook discovered the data harvesting in 2015, but only made it public in March 2018. The FBI and other U.S. federal branches are believed to be investigating.

Some clients of Cambridge Analytica — now defunct — included the Presidential campaigns for Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party during Mexico's 2018 general election.

On Thursday the U.K. Information Commissioner's Office fined Facebook 500,000 pounds (about $642,249) for its involvement in the Analytica debacle, BBC News reports. The agency went a step further, accusing Facebook of allowing other app developers access to data from non-consenting connections, and failing to implement sufficient checks. Facebook has had tightened privacy controls for several years, but didn't implement them in time to stop the likes of Analytica.