Facebook has been fined £500,000 ($910,650) by the United Kingdom today over the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The minuscule fine was the most allowed under the law, but Facebook can probably find that kind of money in its couch cushions. Based on last year’s revenue, Facebook makes that amount in less than 9 minutes of operation.
Facebook came under fire earlier this year when it was revealed that the private data of roughly 87 million people around the world had been harvested by Cambridge Analytica. The firm’s CEO bragged in undercover footage that it had helped get President Donald Trump elected, and it’s credited as one of the many reasons that Trump was able to rise to power in the United States.
The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office released a statement about its fine and claims that “at least least one million UK users [were] among the harvested data.”
“The ICO’s investigation found that between 2007 and 2014, Facebook processed the personal information of users unfairly by allowing application developers access to their information without sufficiently clear and informed consent, and allowing access even if users had not downloaded the app, but were simply ‘friends’ with people who had,” the Information Commissioner’s Office said.
The fine is incredibly small today, but thanks to strict new laws that have been implemented this year, any further data breaches will be met with much stronger penalties.
“We considered these contraventions to be so serious we imposed the maximum penalty under the previous legislation. The fine would inevitably have been significantly higher under the GDPR. One of our main motivations for taking enforcement action is to drive meaningful change in how organisations handle people’s personal data,” Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement.
The European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation, commonly known as the DGPR, includes much harsher maximum fines in the millions of dollars and companies can even be charged up to 4 per cent of their revenue for the most serious offenses.
Facebook did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
Cambridge Analytica was forced to close its doors in the wake of the bad publicity, but the Trump campaign is already in full swing for the 2020 election, and former Cambridge Analytica employees are reportedly being utilised to make sure that Trump holds power in the U.S. Over in Europe, they’re not done with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica yet.
“Our work is continuing,” Denham said. “There are still bigger questions to be asked and broader conversations to be had about how technology and democracy interact and whether the legal, ethical and regulatory frameworks we have in place are adequate to protect the principles on which our society is based.”