False statements made in response to an information notice

Data Protection Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 20th March 2018.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Liam Byrne Liam Byrne Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Economy)

The operation of clause 145 is a matter of great public concern this week, because of the revelations that an app that sat on Facebook collected data for a particular purpose, but they were then re-used by Cambridge Analytica for an entirely different purpose, to bend the outcome of particular elections and, quite possibly, referendums too. Facebook had made a statement that the matter had been resolved a couple of years ago and that the relevant data in question had been deleted. The story has developed over the past 24 hours and former Facebook employees are now alleging that it was not simply 50 million records that were collected for one purpose and re-used for another; there may have been hundreds of millions of records collected for one purpose and used for another.

How will clause 145 bite on a company such as Facebook that may be responding to an information notice issued by the Information Commissioner? The company may have told the Information Commissioner that it was all fine, the data was all deleted and everyone was perfectly satisfied, but a couple of years later it transpires that that is not the case. What would then happen to a company such as Facebook? Is the Minister satisfied that the proposed sanctions and penalties are strong enough? It is not clear to me, given what we now know, that these sanctions are strong enough at all.

Photo of Margot James Margot James The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport

We are debating a suite of powers as part of the overall powers with which the Bill reinforces the Information Commissioner’s Office. It is not just about clause 145. If a company discloses information unlawfully, there is also a separate offence in clause 170. We are not relying on one clause alone.

The case to which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill is referring is developing and ongoing as we debate the Bill, but the Information Commissioner is investigating whether the Facebook data that he referred to was illegally acquired and used. The investigation will focus on establishing what information was accessed and what measures were in place to protect that information, if any, in relation to Facebook users in the UK.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 145 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 146