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Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.

What could it mean for the UK?

A whistle-blower has revealed how Facebook data was harvested to target American voters on behalf of Donald Trump’s election team.

Speaking to journalists, Christopher Wylie, who worked for data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, said that in 2014, 50 million Facebook profiles were harvested by UK-based Aleksandre Kogan and his company Global Science Research. He also claims that Kogan shared this information with Cambridge Analytica, who created a software program which used the data to predict and influence choices at the ballot box.

However, this personal information was taken without authorisation.

It has also been alleged that, while the “unprecedented” infringement took place in 2014, and Facebook found out in 2015, the social media giant failed to alert its users and did not take adequate steps to recover and secure the private information.

The accusations of data harvesting, and the use to which it was put, raises burning questions about the role Facebook played in influencing US presidential election.

Facebook has recently suspended Cambridge Analytica from the platform, pending further information over misuse of data. However, it denies that there was a data breach.

Why does this matter in the UK?

As well as working for former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, Cambridge Analytica, was also employed by the winning Brexit campaign. This raises questions over whether data was illegally acquired and used to impact the EU referendum result. If so, there could be the potential for a massive group action case.

At present both the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office are undertaking separate investigations into the activities of Facebook and the retention, sharing and distribution of data illegally in the UK.

A statement by Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner said:

 “We are investigating the circumstances in which Facebook data may have been illegally acquired and used.

 “It’s part of our ongoing investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes which was launched to consider how political parties and campaigns, data analytics companies and social media platforms in the UK are using and analysing people’s personal information to micro target voters.

 “It is important that the public are fully aware of how information is used and shared in modern political campaigns and the potential impact on their privacy.

 “We are continuing to invoke all of our powers and are pursuing a number of live lines of inquiry. Any criminal and civil enforcement actions arising from the investigation will be pursued vigorously”.

 It is also believed that Parliament will seek further testimony from Facebook to explain its approach to political marketing and the sharing of confidential information. The EU has said that the Facebook data breach, if confirmed, is “horrifying”.

What is a group action claim?

With a group action claim, you and the other Claimants collectively bring your cases to court against a Defendant. Where circumstances are very similar, group actions can be a powerful tool and can have a bigger impact than a single claim.

As specialists in data law we are watching this case very carefully and may put together a group action and seek compensation when the investigations are complete.

Find out more about group action claims.

What now?

If you are a Facebook user and are concerned that your data has been used for targeted political advertising regarding Brexit contact us today. Your information may also be at risk if you are being targeted by a political party or cause on Facebook, despite having no formal affiliation to them. Likewise, if you want to be kept up to date on this case, get in touch. We’ll let you know if and when you can claim.

STAY INFORMED.

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