Facebook is facing a maximum possible fine for allowing Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, to harvest personal data of millions of its users improperly.
The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on Tuesday announced a preliminary fine on Facebook worth £500,000 ($664,000) having found the social media giant guilty of not being transparent on the data acquisition procedure and its failure to protect the information of its users. The Facebook fine – a maximum amount that can possibly be fined under the penalty – comes after it was revealed that a digital consultancy, Cambridge Analytica acquired the data of about 87 million Facebook users for political campaigns.
In a statement released by the 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, people cannot have control over their own data if they don't know or understand how it is being used."
The UK watchdog will make the final ruling after Facebook’s response to the penalty.
Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan has disclosed that the company would have investigated more about Cambridge Analytica and would have taken action since 2015. Egan also acknowledged that the social media giant has been working closely with the ICO in the investigation, as it’s working with the US authorities and other countries.
“We're reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon," Egan said.
The ICO fine on facebook would have been a lot more if the data was shared after the implementation of the new EU law that gives residents of European Union more control over their data. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) OKs a maximum fine of 4% of the defaulting company’s annual global revenue from the previous year or £20 million, that’s a lot higher in any reference frame.
In 2017, Facebook recorded annual revenue of $40 billion. Using this figure, Facebook fine would have amounted to $1.6 billion, which is a lot more.
The ICO began the investigation in March, involving the world’s largest social network, UK-based political data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica and two national governments. Meanwhile, Facebook banned the political consultancy firm from its service earlier this year, after it was leaked that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal information of as many as 87 million users.
Facebook learned of the data breach in 2015 but failed to inform the general public. Rather, the company requested all the parties involved to destroy the information. Many reports believe the firms did not delete all data it had acquired, however.
Facebook had disclosed that Aleksandr Kogan, a Cambridge University lecturer acquired the data legally through a personality quiz app but violated Facebook’s policy by sharing the data with a firm later engaged by Trump presidential campaign during the 2016 US election.