I pay tribute to the journalists who carried out the investigation that brought the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal to light.
The allegations against Cambridge Analytica, which has now gone into administration, and Facebook, if proven true, would mean that millions of individuals’ Facebook data had been misused, not only in a way that breached people’s rights, but that could also have affected the outcomes of elections. I therefore believe they serve as an indictment of the permissive environment that the Government has created and which has allowed data giants in the UK to be careless with people’s data.
As you will know, the Information Commissioner is currently investigating Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. However, I believe she needs stronger powers to pursue this investigation. Her office had to apply for a warrant to search the offices of Cambridge Analytica after the company failed to respond to a demand for records and data, for example.
The Government has said that it will consider greater powers for the Commissioner, as well as additional sanctions for failure to comply with her investigations. However, I believe it should confirm this by introducing amendments to the Data Protection Bill currently in Parliament. It should also consider enabling class action lawsuits so that it is easier for those whose rights were breached to seek justice. In addition, it should support amendments to the Bill to require disclosure of funding for the social media adverts that can influence elections.
I appreciate your calls for Mark Zuckerberg to appear before the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. I note that while Facebook’s chief technical officer has appeared before the committee, the committee found his evidence unsatisfactory and has again written to Facebook asking for Mr Zuckerberg to give evidence. It has also said that it will issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK if he does not respond positively to its request.
I can assure you that I will continue to monitor this issue and press for strong data protection rules to protect personal privacy.