Italy fines Facebook €1 million over Cambridge Analytica violations

Italy fines Facebook €1 million over Cambridge Analytica violations
Digital sovereignty

Italy has issued a €1 million fine against Facebook for violations of its online privacy laws with last year’s Cambridge Analytica revelations, according to Tech Crunch

In March of 2018, it was revealed that personal data had been collected from 87 million Facebook users, mostly without their permission or knowledge, by the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. 

While authorities say only 57 Italian citizens downloaded the quiz app that was used to collect information, they are claiming it gathered data from over 200,000 additional, unwitting Italian Facebook users.

Called Thisisyourdigitallife, the app collected data not only from its own users, but also from Facebook friends of each user, who had not given permission and were wholly unaware their data was being collected. 

The incident occurred before Europe implemented its stringent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and as a result, the fine is relatively small. Under the new regulations, companies can be fined as much as 4 percent of their annual revenue for such violations. The online privacy protections are among the strictest in the world, and took effect shortly following the Cambridge Analytica revelations. 

In March, the company offered to pay Italian regulators a reduced fine of €52,000 to settle the issue. But based on the large scale of the violations, the Italian Data Protection Authority (DPA) said Facebook did not qualify for a reduced payment. 

“The sum takes into account, in addition to the size of the database, also the economic conditions of Facebook and the number of global and Italian users of the company,” the DPA said in a press release. 

Late last year, Italy’s DPA fined Facebook nearly €10 million for misleading users on the ways their data could be used for commercial purposes, in violation of the country’s consumer code. At the time, this was among the largest fines the company had ever faced for mishandling user data. 

The US Federal Trade Commission is expected to issue a fine of between $3 and $5 billion over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. 

The company maintains that no data from Italian users was shared with Cambridge Analytica itself, even if it was initially collected by Dr. Aleksandr Kogan’s quiz app.

In response to the latest fine, a Facebook spokesperson told Tech Crunch:

“We have said before that we wish we had done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica in 2015. However, evidence indicates that no Italian user data was shared with Cambridge Analytica. Dr. Kogan only shared data with Cambridge Analytica in relation to US users. We made major changes to our platform back then and have also significantly restricted the information which app developers can access. We’re focused on protecting people’s privacy and have invested in people, technology and partnerships, including hiring more than 20,000 people focused on safety and security over the last year.”

Photo: Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI, United States [CC BY 2.0 (]