Not Even a Wrist Slap: Facebook Fined £500k in UK

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit at the San Jose Mc Enery Convention Center in San Jose California

The group said the UK's privacy watchdog decision on Wednesday to fine Facebook the maximum penalty of £500,000 for breaching data protection laws strengthened its claim.

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. "And as Facebook needs no reminding, under the EU's data protection law GDPR, regulators have much bigger and more significant powers, as well as the ability to issue far larger fines", said Frederike Kaltheuner, data exploitation program lead at the charity.

Just think how much more compelling and mind bending Facebook micro-targeting ads could have been if viewers were taken to augmented worlds.

"It shows the scale of the problem and that we are doing the right thing with our new data protection rules", she said.

Meanwhile, the ICO has sent warning letters to 11 political parties, compelling them to agree to audits of their data protection practices.

In the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook notified users who were affected by the data misuse with alerts at the tops of their news feeds. However, it did so today because a parliamentary committee is also probing the issue of Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and political influence, and the ICO wanted to help inform the committee's work.

Cambridge Analytica, a London firm financed by wealthy US Republican donors, worked for the 2016 Trump campaign and for a while employed Steve Bannon, the CEO of US President Donald Trump's campaign and later a White House adviser.

The information was gathered through an app that paid users to take a personality test but that also harvested details about their Facebook friends. "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". However, the incident was only made public this year thanks to a whistleblower, and the ICO believes Cambridge Analytica not only failed to delete the information as requested, but indeed shared it with others.

Damian Collins, chair of the DCMS committee said: "Given that the ICO is saying that Facebook broke the law, it is essential that we now know which other apps that ran on their platform may have scraped data in a similar way".

OAIC is conducting its own investigation into whether Facebook breached the Privacy Act, which obligates organisations to ensure customers are notified about the collection and handling of their personal information.

Consider the £500,000 fine more like the beginning of companies like Facebook's woes, not lawmakers' final solutions.

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