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11th Jul 2018

Facebook to receive maximum £500,000 fine for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal

That's five and a half minutes' worth of the company's revenue

Oli Dugmore

That’s five and a half minutes’ worth of the company’s revenue

Facebook will be fined £500,000 by Britain’s data regulator, the ICO, for the role it played in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Cambridge Analytica reportedly harvested data from millions of Facebook users to deliver micro-targeted ads, seeking to influence political events.

The information commissioner announced that the fine was for two breaches of the Data Protection Act – that Facebook was not transparent about how third parties had harvested its users’ data and failed to safeguard that information.

Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, told BBC Radio 4: “Facebook has failed to provide the kind of protections they are required to under the Data Protection Act.

“Fines and prosecutions punish the bad actors, but my real goal is to effect change and restore trust and confidence in our democratic system.

“This was a very serious contravention, so in the new regime they would face a much higher fine.

“This is not all about fines though… any company is worried about its reputation, because people want to feel that their data is safe.

“In 2014 and 2015, the Facebook platform allowed an app… that ended up harvesting 87m profiles of users around the world that was then used by Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 presidential campaign and in the referendum.

The £500,000 fine is paltry by comparison to the punishment that could be meted out post-GDPR, which caps fines at £17 million or 4 per cent of global turnover. For Facebook that would amount to £1.4 billion. In the first quarter of 2018, the £500,000 fine correlates to five and half minutes’ worth of the company’s revenue.

Facebook’s chief privacy Officer, Erin Egan, said of the intent to fine: As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015. We have been working closely with the ICO in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the US and other countries. We’re reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon.”