The Malta Independent 14 November 2019, Thursday

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: Data Protection Commissioner received no Maltese complaints

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 22 August 2019, 10:04 Last update: about 4 months ago

The Office of the Information and Data Protection Commissioner in Malta has not received any complaints against Facebook, a representative told The Malta Independent.

Facebook is facing increasing governmental scrutiny in the USA over its privacy practices, including a record $5 billion fine from the US Federal Trade Commission for mishandling user data.

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“The $5 billion penalty against Facebook is the largest ever imposed on any company for violating consumers’ privacy and almost 20 times greater than the largest privacy or data security penalty ever imposed worldwide. It is one of the largest penalties ever assessed by the U.S. government for any violation,” the FTC had said in a statement back in July.

The Associated Press reported that the deal with the FTC imposed a number of requirements, including that Facebook had to restructure the way it handles user privacy. “Since the Cambridge Analytica debacle erupted more than a year ago and prompted the FTC investigation, Facebook has vowed to do a better job corralling its users’ data. That scandal revealed that a data mining firm affiliated with President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign improperly accessed private information from as many as 87 million Facebook users through a quiz app. At issue was whether Facebook violated a 2011 settlement with the FTC over user privacy.”

“Other leaky controls have also since come to light. Facebook acknowledged giving big tech companies like Amazon and Yahoo extensive access to users’ personal data , in effect exempting them from its usual privacy rules. And it collected call and text logs from phones running Google’s Android system in 2015,” the Associated Press reports.

The fine, however, doesn’t spell the end of Facebook’s troubles. The company faces a slew of other investigations, both in the US and overseas, that could carry their own fines and, more importantly possible limits to its data collection. This includes nearly a dozen by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, which oversees privacy regulation in the European Union, the Associated Press said.

The Malta Independent asked the Office of the Information and Data Protection Commissioner in Malta whether it is investigating Facebook over this issue, and to give a reason if it is not.

A representative of the Office of the Information and Data Protection Commissioner said that they are aware of the data protection issues in relation to this specific case where Facebook was fined $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for the Cambridge Analytica privacy violations. 

“That said, in Malta, we have not received complaints from data subjects against Facebook, neither following the breaking of this scandal early last year nor in relation to any other alleged data protection infringement.“

“If this will be the case, given that Facebook does not have an establishment in Malta, this Office will use the cooperation and consistency mechanism contemplated in the GDPR and refer such case to the Lead Supervisory Authority (LSA). In such case, IDPC will be a concerned Supervisory Authority.  We are confident that the LSA will investigate the matter and communicate with the relevant concerned supervisory authorities in line with the provisions relating to such mechanism,” the Office said.

This response seems to indicate that the Commission is leaving the investigation up to the LSA and is not looking into the situation itself given than no complaints were received.

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