Cambridge Analytica scandal: UK tells tech giants to simplify data policies for users

Facebook’s Mark Zukerberg took out full page advertisements in UK Sunday newspapers vowing to “do better” following the data breach revelations

epa06626154 A view of the Cambridge Analytica headquarters in London, Britain, 24 March 2018. Officers of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) on late 23 March, have searched the Cambridge Analytica headquaters, as the company is accused of using the personal data of 50 million Facebook members for its own campaigns during the US election and the Brexit referendum.  EPA/NEIL HALL
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The UK government will tell technology giants to simplify their data management policies for its users in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal.

Britain’s digital, culture and media secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that companies such as Facebook and Twitter were “bewildering” consumers with lengthy terms and conditions about how their data is used. He wants tech giants’ service agreements to fit onto one page.

"People are bewildered by pages of unwieldy terms and conditions," Mr Hancock told The Times. "I want these boiled right down so people can see in one glance what they're signing up to. I want the big platforms to answer questions and demonstrate they are willing to change."

Tech firms have come under even closer scrutiny following claims last week that consultancy Cambridge Analytica working for the Trump campaign during the 2016 US election had harvested personal data from more than 50 million Facebook accounts.

The UK government have summoned executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter to discuss their data management policies.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg took out full page advertisements in British newspapers on Sunday vowing to “do better” for social media users.


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"We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can't, we don't deserve it," the advert read.

Facebook’s shares dropped by 14 per cent following the Cambridge Analytica revelations, published in the Observer newspaper and Channel 4 News, and advertisers left the platform.

Britain’s privacy watchdog said it was examining evidence it had gathered during a raid on Cambridge Analytica’s London offices on Saturday.

“We will now need to assess and consider the evidence before deciding the next steps and coming to any conclusions,” the Information Commissioner's Office said in a statement.

"This is one part of a larger investigation by the ICO into the use of personal data and analytics by political campaigns, parties, social media companies and other commercial actors,'' it said.

Cambridge Analytica was caught up in another election scandal on Saturday after a whistleblower claimed that a pro-Brexit campaign group had broken referendum spending rules through paying a Canadian data company with links to the embattled analytics firm.

Shahmir Sanni told the Observer that Vote Leave, the official campaign backed by foreign secretary Boris Johnson, had used a smaller campaign group Be Leave to sidestep spending limits and give money to data company AggregateIQ.

Mr Sanni, a former Be Leave volunteer, said Vote Leave signed off on donation decisions made by Be Leave, contrary to Electoral Commission rules.

Vote Leave, which separately paid AggregateIQ millions of pounds, denies linking up with Be Leave.

Former Cambridge Analytica employee Christopher Wylie said that there were multiple links with AggregateIQ and his ex-firm.

Mr Wylie claimed that during the Brexit referendum AggregateIQ worked “almost as an internal department of Cambridge Analytica”.

AggregateIQ denies entering into a contract with Cambridge Analytica.

Lawyers for the Canadian firm also said the Vote Leave and BeLeave accounts had been kept separate at all times.