Facebook has agreed to pay a £500,000 fine to the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which nearly 90 million users had their personal data shared with the political consulting firm without their knowledge or consent. The social media company has now withdrawn its appeal after a year of litigation, agreeing to pay the highest possible fine ICO could have issued, according to The Guardian.
If the violations had occured after Europe implemented its General Data Protection Regulation in May of 2018, fines could have run as high as 4 percent of Facebook’s annual revenue. And in the US, the Federal Communications Commission has fined the company $5 billion over the scandal.
While Facebook has said it “wished it had done more to investigate Cambridge Analytica,” the settlement includes no admission of liability. The company appealed the ruling when it was first issued in July of 2018, leading to a counter-appeal by ICO. Both parties have now dropped their appeals. According to Harry Kinmonth, a lawyer representing Facebook:
“We made major changes to our platform back then, significantly restricting the information which app developers could access. Protecting people’s information and privacy is a top priority for Facebook, and we are continuing to build new controls to help people protect and manage their information.”
Facebook says it will keep working with ICO to investigate the use of data analytics for political purposes. ICO has also allowed Facebook to resume its own investigation into Cambridge Analytica, which it had asked the company to put on hold.
“The ICO welcomes the agreement reached with Facebook for the withdrawal of their appeal against our monetary penalty notice and agreement to pay the fine. The ICO’s main concern was that UK citizen data was exposed to a serious risk of harm,” according to ICO deputy commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone.
“Protection of personal information and personal privacy is of fundamental importance, not only for the rights of individuals, but also as we now know, for the preservation of a strong democracy. We are pleased to hear that Facebook has taken, and will continue to take, significant steps to comply with the fundamental principles of data protection. With this strong commitment to protecting people’s personal information and privacy, we expect that Facebook will be able to move forward and learn from the events of this case.”
Photo by Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI, United States [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]