Data protection: MEPs demand audit of Facebook

Facebook data protection audit
© iStock/amesy

MEPs on the European Civil Liberties committee passed a resolution yesterday recommending a full audit of Facebook’s data protection measures.

In the conclusion to several hearings held since the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, MEPs noted the improvements Facebook had made to its privacy policy; but pointed out the company had not yet carried out the internal data protection audit it had promised users and stakeholders.

They further suggested Facebook implement “substantial modifications” to its processes in order to comply with current data protection legislation; and strongly advised the company allow the EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) and the European Data Protection Board to carry out “a full and independent audit” of its data protection procedures.

The hearings were set up in early 2018 in the wake of the revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, had harvested the personal data of millions of Facebook users. In September it came to light that Facebook had experienced another significant data breach, which the committee was then obliged to consider.

Taking into account General Data Protection Regulation and new EU rules concerning political funding, MEPs made a series of recommendations to prevent electoral interference by social media, including:

  • Applying offline electoral safeguards, such as rules on transparency, spending limits and equal treatment of candidates, to social networks;
  • Clearly labelling paid political content and material shared by bots and speeding up the process of removing fake accounts; and
  • Banning profiling of users by businesses for electoral purposes.

Member States will be permitted to conduct criminal investigations into the political misuse of citizens’ data.

Claude Moraes, chair of the committee, said: “This resolution makes clear that we expect measures to be taken to protect citizens’ right to private life, data protection and freedom of expression. Improvements have been made since the scandal, but, as the Facebook data breach of 50 million accounts showed just last month, these do not go far enough.”

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