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Facebook Slapped With £500,000 Fine for Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Most people don't have £500,000 ($663,352) to spare. The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) slapped Facebook with a fine for that amount this week, although for a company like Facebook this is just a pittance. While the ICO hasn't exactly ruined the firm's finances with this penalty, it represents the latest in a series of consequences for Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica scandal that erupted this year.

The scandal centered on Cambridge Analytica's abuse of Facebook's wishy-washy data sharing rules for harvesting information from 50 million people. That data was then used by political organizations in the U.S. to help support their candidate of choice. This initial report blossomed into multiple complaints about how Facebook controls the user data gathered by other companies, how much data Facebook itself stores and more.

Now lawmakers around the world have opened investigations into Facebook's data practices. That's where the ICO comes in. The office is charged with protecting the privacy of UK citizens and it "concluded that Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people’s information" and "found that the company failed to be transparent about how people’s data was harvested by others."

Those failings led to the ICO's plan to issue a £500,000 fine. That doesn't seem like much for companies whose revenues are measured in the billions, but it's the highest fine the ICO can issue under the UK's Data Protection Act 1998, which Facebook violated twice over. If the Cambridge Analytica incident happened closer to the present, it would've fallen under stricter data protection laws and resulted in higher fines.

But financial consequences aren't the point; they're merely a way to punish companies for their misbehavior. The Cambridge Analytica scandal isn't just about how much information companies gathered about Facebook users and their friends without their knowing--it's also about how this data can be used to influence very specific groups of people for political gain. UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said:

“We are at a crossroads. Trust and confidence in the integrity of our democratic processes risk being disrupted because the average voter has little idea of what is going on behind the scenes. ... New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters. But this cannot be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law. ... Fines and prosecutions punish the bad actors, but my real goal is to effect change and restore trust and confidence in our democratic system."

Those concerns over how this data can affect democratic processes led the ICO to support numerous studies into the matter. One, Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence, resulted from the office's 14-month-long investigation. Another, The Future of Political Campaigning, was commissioned by the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the DEMOS thinktank.

The ICO's continued interest in these matters shows that this is just the beginning. Never before have political groups had the ability to gather so much information about so many people and use that data in an effort to sway voters' political opinions. Consider the £500,000 fine more like the beginning of companies like Facebook's woes, not lawmakers' final solutions.

  • jimmysmitty
    The European Union fined Microsoft $1.44 Billion USD for not having a version of Windows without Media Player built in. Yet Facebook sells Billions in user data without peoples consent and they get a small shake of the finger?

    I say burn them to the ground.
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    Slap on the hand. How much did they gain from the issue? Probably more than the fine, so it will be just a cost of doing business. at least at this point in time.
    Reply
  • therealduckofdeath
    Jimmysmitty, I guess this is why Britain wanted to leave. so they could have control over their own laws. It seems like they want a mini-America where Big Corp gets to do what they want.
    Reply
  • Martell1977
    21132644 said:
    Slap on the hand. How much did they gain from the issue? Probably more than the fine, so it will be just a cost of doing business. at least at this point in time.

    That's what I was thinking, with as much money as they made off that data, this is less than a drop in the bucket. They should have tried to estimate how much was made and then base the fine off that. FB will just get the money out of the couch in the employees lounge and pay the fine as it is.

    So glad I don't use social media...
    Reply
  • Martell1977
    21132697 said:
    Jimmysmitty, I guess this is why Britain wanted to leave. so they could have control over their own laws. It seems like they want a mini-America where Big Corp gets to do what they want.

    Trump is trying to drain the swamp, but the establishment are fighting him, so-called "special interests" basically control the congress here in America.
    Reply
  • danlw
    If it weren't for the political angle, there would be no fine. The only scandal here is people leaving their FaceBook page set to be available to everybody and being surprised that their data was harvested by everybody, including political organizations.
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    21132697 said:
    Jimmysmitty, I guess this is why Britain wanted to leave. so they could have control over their own laws. It seems like they want a mini-America where Big Corp gets to do what they want.

    Oh sure. I guess that's why the AMERICAN DOJ, FBI, FTC, and SEC are team investigating Facebook for alleged civil privacy violations. We'll see what happens there. Speaking of "Big Corp" I guess you have no problem with YOUR politicians taking campaign money from them through PACs. And you can't get more "Big Corp" mentality than Facebook's power abuse. ESPECIALLY regarding political bias. If you had any credibility and character at all, no matter your political leaning, you'd at least admit that.

    And yes, Brits chose to tell the EU to take a walk because they got tired of Brussels based mainland Europe bureaucrats telling them what sized tea pots for power consumption they are only allowed to use. And no, I'm not making that up. Read more, pontificate less.

    21132838 said:
    If it weren't for the political angle, there would be no fine. The only scandal here is people leaving their FaceBook page set to be available to everybody and being surprised that their data was harvested by everybody, including political organizations.

    Even if you have your profile set to privacy, it guarantees nothing. We saw this when FB was exposed for trying to back door access user health care records. FB has become an out of control politically biased monster that has violated privacy rights and I hope the current administration takes it down.
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    21132697 said:
    Jimmysmitty, I guess this is why Britain wanted to leave. so they could have control over their own laws. It seems like they want a mini-America where Big Corp gets to do what they want.

    Or they want to be able to control their country without the EU telling them what they can and cannot do.
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    21132982 said:
    Or they want to be able to control their country without the EU telling them what they can and cannot do.

    I have friends in London. They are very upset at the current mayor and PM. They feel like their English heritage is dying. Based on the news out of London lately, I fully believe it.
    Reply
  • therealduckofdeath
    21132982 said:
    Or they want to be able to control their country without the EU telling them what they can and cannot do.
    This is a British court giving Big Corp a gentle slap on the hand. The EU is still investigating this and has said they're looking into babysitting Facebook (regulating) in order to prevent them from doing this again. 500,000 in fines for a company with a multi-billion dollar quarterly revenue isn't even a drop in the ocean.
    Reply