A fine of £500,000 has been agreed to be paid by Facebook to the Information Commissioner’s Office in relation to its alleged role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This fine which is the highest possible one would bring an end to the litigation going on between the social media platform and the regulator for more than a year now.
Announcement for imposing a fine on Facebook was made by the ICO in July of 2018. At that time, the decision and the announcement to impose a fine on Facebook was made public which was unusual because till then Facebook had not been given a chance to respond. The regulator ultimately issued a formal order for the fine to the social media company in October 2018.
The decision by the regulator was appealed against by Facebook and an interim ruling was issued the tribunal in June 2019 which ordered “holding that procedural fairness and allegations of bias on the part of the ICO should be considered as part of the appeal, and that the ICO should be required to disclose materials relating to its decision-making process”.
Facebook has made no admission of liability according to the terms of the settlement. The documents disclosed by the ICO have also been allowed to be kept with the company partly because such documents could ne helpful for the company in its own investigations over the Cambridge Analytica issue. That investigation had been paused at the ICO’s request.
The maximum possible fine the ICO could levy for breach of data was £500,000 which was according to the regulations since the unfolding of the data protection violations by Cambridge Analytica in 2015 and before the general data protection regulation was implemented by the European Union in 2018. According to the new data breach regulations passed in May 2018, the maximum possible fine against Facebook would have been much higher and up to 4 per cent of the annual turnover of the social media company.
“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,” said James Dipple-Johnstone, the ICO’s deputy commissioner.
“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,” he added.
“We are pleased to have reached a settlement with the ICO. As we have said before, we wish we had done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica in 2015. 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,” said Harry Kinmonth, a lawyer representing Facebook.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)