The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK has revealed its intention to fine Facebook £500 000 for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham revealed in an update to her office’s investigation that Facebook had breached the Data Protection Act of 1998 by failing to safeguard the information of its users.
Earlier this year it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections Ltd. had been harvesting the data of some 50 million (that number is closer to 87 million these days) Facebook users around the world. It is believed that this data was used to influence the outcome political campaigns such as the 2016 US Presidential elections.
“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,” wrote Denham.
The fine Facebook faces is rather small, especially when you consider that the firm was making £500 000 every five and a half minutes in the first quarter, according to The Guardian.
That having been said, should something like this happen again Facebook could face fines of up to £17million or 4% of its global turnover thanks to GDPR laws which have been in effect since May 2018.
But the point of the fine is not to bankrupt Facebook, says Denham. “Fines and prosecutions punish the bad actors, but my real goal is to effect change and restore trust and confidence in our democratic system.”
The commissioner also used the opportunity to call for an ethical pause so that government, parliament, regulators, political parties, online platforms and the public could “reflect on their responsibilities in the era of big data” and we agree with this.
Following the Cambridge Analytica revelations there was widespread shock at the amount of data Facebook was collecting despite that information being outlined in the service’s terms and conditions.
One notable instance (of which there are many) of people not understanding what today’s tech space looks like was the US Senate not understanding how Facebook makes money without charging a subscription fee.
The ICO’s investigation into the Cambridge Analytica scandal remains ongoing and is expected to be concluded by October of this year.