Saturday

21st Apr 2018

Data breach affected 2.7 million people in EU, says Facebook

  • Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg (l) on a previous visit to EU commissioner Vera Jourova, January 2018 (Photo: European Commission)

US social media giant Facebook has told the European Commission that information about up to 2.7 million people in the EU may have been compromised, in the scandal around UK consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.

It is the first time a full figure for the entire 28 EU member states has emerged.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Around half of the EU's population is a Facebook user (Photo: Eduardo Woo)

"Facebook confirmed to us that the data of overall up to 2.7 million Europeans – or people in the EU, to be more precise – may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica," commission spokesman Christian Wigand told press on Friday (6 April).

Earlier this week, Facebook gave an estimate of the worldwide maximum number of affected accounts, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg stressing in a conference call that the actual number may be lower, but not higher.

Facebook said in a blog post published Wednesday that of the 87 million people affected, over 80 percent were Americans.

The blog post only revealed the ten most affected countries, including the UK, where data from 1,079,031 people was said to be possibly compromised. Cambridge Analytica has been accused of being involved in duping UK voters into voting leave in the 2016 referendum on EU membership.

The US company did inform national media in the EU of the number of affected people there – such as a maximum of 309,815 users in Germany and up to 214,123 in Italy – but had not given an overall figure for all 28 EU member states.

Facebook gave the commission the figure in a letter sent on Thursday evening, in response to one sent by EU consumer affairs commissioner Vera Jourova last week.

In the letter, the company also told the EU what steps it has taken to improve security of its service.

"We will study the letter in more detail but it is already clear that this will need further follow-up discussions with Facebook on implemented changes, also in the context of the … upcoming new European data protection rules, and the broader questions on the democratic process," said commission spokesman Wigand.

On 25 May, the far-reaching European general data protection regulation will come into force, giving new privacy rights to every EU citizen.

Wigand added that Jourova has an appointment for a phone call with Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg (who wrote the letter) next week, "to continue this discussion".

Also next week, the EU's national data protection authorities will meet to discuss the breach.

While there are common EU rules on data protection, enforcement is still for a large part done at national level.

"A strong coordinated approach of the EU data protection authorities in the investigations is now crucial," said Wigand.

According to the Internet World Stats website, there were around 250 million Facebook users in the EU in mid-2017 – around half of the entire population.

In the worst case scenario that all 2.7 million identified by Facebook as potentially affected, were indeed affected, that would amount to one percent of EU users.

EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica

EU leaders at a Brussels summit demand social networks and digital platforms guarantee transparency and privacy. Their call comes amid growing backlash against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica over voter manipulation.

Facebook promises more privacy ahead of new EU rules

Speaking in Brussels, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, says the social media giant has "not done enough to stop the abuse of our technology." Her admission comes with new plans to wrestle with "bad content".

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists