Facebook, the social media giant that recently clocked in at a total valuation of nearly $US600 billion ($808 billion), may soon face the maximum penalties UK authorities have available to punish the company for its role in the Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal. And — drumroll, please — it’s £500,000 ($892,940).
Or, as calculated by The New York Times’ Kevin Roose, less than seven minutes of Facebook’s averaged Q1 2018 revenue.
Bloomberg reports that UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said the threat of a fine is a “clear signal” that Facebook’s loose data-protection policies, which allowed the shady London-based election data firm Cambridge Analytica to run off with extensive data on at least 87 million users without their consent, were unacceptable:
The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office is threatening the company with the maximum penalty allowed, it said Wednesday when issuing its first findings in a probe that looked at some 30 organisations, including social-media platforms such as Facebook. The tech giant is accused of not properly protecting user data and not sharing how people’s data was harvested by others.
“Facebook has failed to provide the kinds of protections they’re required to do under data protection laws,” Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said on a call with reporters.
Of course, the only “clear signal” Facebook is likely to take away from a fine this tiny is that their actions resulted in zero actual consequences.
More recent developments could leave Facebook on the hook for significantly more if this happens again. According to The Guardian, under new General Data Protection rules implemented this year, Facebook could be fined at four per cent of global turnover for any similar violations in the future — or up to $US1.9 billion ($2.6 billion) by last count.
In the US, Facebook’s role in the scandal — including whether it withheld information on Cambridge Analytica’s data-harvesting operations and their response from investors, investigators and members of Congress — has attracted the attention of at least four federal agencies.
The US Federal Trade Commission is reportedly investigating whether Facebook’s approach to sharing user information violated a 2011 legal agreement that could in theory result in massive fines, though its historic approach to the issue suggests it is more likely to issue a relative slap on the wrist.
Regardless, with Facebook stock soaring, this is a reminder that the social media company has yet to face any real consequences from authorities for alleged misconduct, or at least few real inhibitions to its continued stranglehold of the internet.