The response to Facebook’s data exploitation scandal, which involves the data of nearly 1.1 million Britons out of a total of 87 million users affected, has demonstrated that data protection and privacy are now more important to the UK public than ever before, according to information commissioner Elizabeth Denham.
She was speaking ahead of the announcement of a major public awareness campaign which will seek to improve people’s trust and confidence in how organisations handle their personal information.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recently revealed that Facebook is among 30 organisations under investigation as part of a probe into the use of personal data and analytics by political campaigns, parties, social media companies and other commercial actors.
Cambridge Analytica, which allegedly used the data for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign, and AggregateIQ (AIQ) – a Canadian data company that reportedly played a role in the Vote Leave campaign in the UK referendum on leaving the European Union – have also been named by the ICO as being involved in the investigation.
At the weekend, Facebook announced that it had suspended AIQ, adding Cambridge Analytica and other partners it has suspended in the wake of the scandal, because it may have improperly received users’ data and because of reported links with the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, reports the BBC. But AIQ denies ever being part of CA, its parent company SCL or accessing improperly obtained Facebook data.
In a keynote speech at the ICO’s 11th annual Data Protection Practitioners’ Conference (DPPC) in Manchester on 9 April, Denham will tell more than 800 delegates: “It has been hard to miss the exposé of Cambridge Analytica’s alleged use of personal data in election campaigns, including information gathered from Facebook.
“The dramatic revelations of the past few weeks can be seen as a game changer in data protection. Suddenly, everyone is paying attention. Our public information campaign, Your data matters, will help raise awareness but also, I hope, increase trust in our data-driven world.”
In the US, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is set to meet US lawmakers ahead of Congressional hearings on the Cambridge Analytica, according to Reuters. Zuckerberg is scheduled to appear before a joint-hearing of the US Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees on 10 April and the US House Energy and Commerce Committee on 11 April.
Zuckerberg is expected in his testimony to recognise a need to take responsibility and acknowledge an initial failure to understand how many people were affected, Reuters quoted a person briefed on the matter as saying. The social networking firm said it will start notifying all users affected through detailed messages on their news feeds from 9 April.
While Facebook has been cooperating with the ICO, Denham said recently that it is too early to say whether the changes the social networking firm is making are sufficient under the law, adding that this an “important time” for privacy rights.
Other speakers at the DPPC event in Manchester will include Margot James, minister for digital and the creative industries, along with experts and innovators from the public, private and academic sectors.
ICO staff will be outlining the regulator’s current and future work in areas including enforcement and regulatory action, technology policy and international engagement. Drop-in centres will offer one-to-one advice on various areas of data protection law, particularly aspects of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) ahead of the compliance deadline on 25 May.
“The proper use of personal data can achieve remarkable things,” said Denham. “It can improve, ease and enrich our lives. Now, more than ever, the role of data protection practitioner is not just as a guardian of privacy, but as an ambassador for the appropriate use of personal data in line with the law.”