Majority of people believe UK government should fine Facebook after data scandal, poll reveals

Ashley Cowburn

Facebook should be fined by the UK government to punish the technology giant for failing to protect people’s data, according to a majority of those polled by The Independent.

It follows the scandal that engulfed the social media company last month over allegations by a whistleblower that British consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly accessed user information.

It led to a public apology over the “breach of trust” from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, including in several full-page advertisements in both British and American newspapers.

But according to the exclusive polling by BMG for The Independent, 60 per cent of respondents either “strongly” supported or “somewhat” supported the statement that Facebook should now be fined by the government over the revelations.

The statement asked: “Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has acknowledged his company failed to properly to protect people’s data, amid claims details of millions of users were compromised. To what extent would you support or oppose Facebook being fined by the UK government as a result?”

Just 10 per cent of those polled opposed sanctioning the company while 21 per cent said neither support nor oppose and a further 9 per cent replied, “don’t know”. Similar results were reflected across all age groups.

The survey also comes after Mr Zuckerberg was summoned to give evidence to a parliamentary committee on how the social network’s partners gather user data.

In a letter to Mr Zuckerberg, Damian Collins, the chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said: “It is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process.

“Accordingly we are sure you will understand the need for a representative from right at the top of the organisation to address concerns. Given your commitment at the start of the new year to “fixing” Facebook, I hope that this representative will be you.”

It was a request rejected by the Facebook CEO, with the company instead offering to send a senior deputy to the hearing, which will take place next week.

Matt Hancock, the culture secretary, has previously suggested that under the Data Protection Bill – currently making its way through parliament – the government could fine social media companies for up to 4 per cent of their global turnover if they fail to “play by the rules”.

He said last month: “This means Facebook, if it breaks the rules, could face bills of up to £1.1bn from May. And the bill also means that people will have the right to move all their data wholesale from one social network to another. So from May, if people lose trust in a social media platform, they can move to another one at the click of a button and this will concentrate minds.

“After this week’s revelations I think it’s time that social media platforms come clean with what data they really hold on people and I want to see rules in place to allow people to have control over their own data. So we’re going to require much more transparency on how data is held by the big platforms and transparency over how advertising spend is used on them.”