Facebook Appeals $646K Fine Over Cambridge Analytica Scandal

UPDATE 11/21: Facebook today appealed the Information Commissioner’s ruling–the last day it had the opportunity to do so. Facebook’s lawyer Anna Benckert, argues that, “The ICO’s investigation stemmed from concerns that UK citizens’ data may have been impacted by Cambridge Analytica, yet they now have confirmed that they have found no evidence to suggest that information of Facebook users in the UK was ever shared by Dr. Kogan with Cambridge Analytica, or used by its affiliates in the Brexit referendum,” according to the BBC.

Benckert argues that because of this, “the core of the ICO’s argument no longer relates to the events involving Cambridge Analytica. Instead, their reasoning challenges some of the basic principles of how people should be allowed to share information online, with implications which go far beyond just Facebook, which is why we have chosen to appeal. “For example, under the ICO’s theory people should not be allowed to forward an email or message without having agreement from each person on the original thread.

“These are things done by millions of people every day on services across the internet, which is why we believe the ICO’s decision raises important questions of principle for everyone online which should be considered by an impartial court based on all the relevant evidence.” Original story 10/25:
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK, an independent body for upholding information rights, has fined Facebook the maximum GBP500,000 (approximately £646,000) due to the company’s handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook allowed developers of the personality app “thisisyourdigitallife” to access personal information of both users and their Facebook friends without consent, and then failed to keep the information secure by allowing Dr.

Aleksandr Kogan and his company GSR to harvest data from up to 87 million people worldwide. The ICO goes on to describe how “a subset of this data was later shared with other organizations, including SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica who were involved in political campaigning in the US.” When Facebook discovered the data misuse in December 2015, which affected at least one million UK users, Facebook didn’t take immediate action.

SCL Group was only suspended by the social network in 2018. Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, said that because of Facebook’s “size and expertise [it] should have known better and it should have done better.” Denham added that, “We considered these contraventions to be so serious we imposed the maximum penalty under the previous legislation.

The fine would inevitably have been significantly higher under the GDPR. One of our main motivations for taking enforcement action is to drive meaningful change in how organisations handle people’s personal data.” In a statement reported by the BBC, Facebook said it was “reviewing” the ICO’s decision.

“While we respectfully disagree with some of their findings, we have said before that we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and taken action in 2015,” Facebook said. While GBP500,000 is the maximum fine the ICO can apply using the old data protection rules before GDPR became law in May, Facebook made GBP10.2bn (£13.2bn) in revenue in the last quarter. It’s questionable whether such a comparatively small fine will be enough for the social media giant to change its behavior.

Facebook wants to be seen as a more secure company, with reports indicating it’s buying a cybersecurity firm, which not only makes for a good PR opporunity, but might help it combat data breaches and nefarious parties who are using its platform for political ends.

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