Members of European Parliament Thursday called for a full audit of Facebook following a data breach scandal involving the firm Cambridge Analytica, which was accused of illegally accessing the data of 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge.
The call was made in a resolution passed Thursday in Strasbourg.
MEPs, meeting for a plenary session, say in their resolution that Facebook not only breached the trust of EU citizens, "but indeed EU law". The European lawmakers recommend that Facebook make changes to its platform in order to comply with EU data protection rules.
"This is a global issue, which has already affected our referenda and our elections," said Claude Moraes (Socialists and Democrats group, United Kingdom), chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
"This resolution sets out the measures that are needed, including an independent audit of Facebook, an update to our competition rules, and additional measures to protect our elections," he said, adding: "Action must be taken now, not just to restore trust in online platforms, but to protect citizens' privacy and restore trust and confidence in our democratic systems."
The resolution was adopted the same day that Facebook was handed a 500,000 pound fine -- the maximum fine allowed -- by the United Kingdom's data protection watchdog for the part it played in the scandal with Cambridge Analytica, a British firm.
The British Information Commissioner's Office said in a Thursday statement that Facebook had allowed a "serious breach" of law, and that the social networking company had given third-party app developers access to users' data "without clear consent."
The possibility that data obtained by Cambridge Analytica may have been used for political purposes by both sides during the Brexit referendum in the UK, for example, as well as to target American voters in 2016 during the U.S. presidential election, was highlighted as a cause for concern by the European Parliament.
The European lawmakers described the urgency of countering any attempt to manipulate EU elections and to adapt electoral laws to reflect the new digital reality in advance of the 2019 European elections.
MEPs proposed several measures to try to curb the use of social media for the purposes of election meddling, including applying conventional "off-line" electoral safeguards online and banning profiling for electoral purposes.
The non-binding resolution adopted by the European Parliament summarizes the conclusions reached after a May 2018 hearing with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and leading MEPs, as well as three additional hearings. It makes reference of another data breach suffered by Facebook on Sept. 28, 2018.