Facebook is still one of the world’s biggest social media platforms, despite their stock falling earlier this week, but the tech giant has also recently been fined by the Information Commissioner’s Office, following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. They were fined a sum of £500,000 in the United Kingdom, which is reportedly the top fine that they could get.
But, Facebook claim that the fine was unjustified, as the regulator found no evidence that UK users’ personal data had been shared inappropriately. They also argued that the penalty “challenges some of the basic principles of how people should be allowed to share information online”.
Last month, the UK Watchdog said Facebook had failed to make suitable checks on apps and developers, which was considered as a “serious breach of the law”.
The scandal followed after the discovery of an app that was developed by academic Dr Aleksander Kogan in 2014 and 2015. The app was able to access Facebook, and ended up gaining up to 87 million profiles of users around the world. This data was then used by Cambridge Analytica to target voters in the 2016 US presidential campaign.
It was also reported that 1.1 million UK-based users had their personal details exposed. However, Cambridge Analytica claimed it had only ever licensed data from approximately 30 million people, and an investigation by the ICO found no UK citizens were among them.
Despite this, the ICO imposed the maximum penalty on Facebook, due to UK users being put at risk and that not enough had been done to address this after learning of the problem.
“The ICO’s investigation stemmed from concerns that UK citizens’ data may have been impacted by Cambridge Analytica, yet they now have confirmed that they have found no evidence to suggest that information of Facebook users in the UK was ever shared by Dr Kogan with Cambridge Analytica, or used by its affiliates in the Brexit referendum,” Facebook’s associate general Anna Benckert stated.
“Therefore, the core of the ICO’s argument no longer relates to the events involving Cambridge Analytica. Instead, their reasoning challenges some of the basic principles of how people should be allowed to share information online, with implications which go far beyond just Facebook, which is why we have chosen to appeal.”
“For example, under the ICO’s theory people should not be allowed to forward an email or message without having agreement from each person on the original thread.”
“These are things done by millions of people every day on services across the internet, which is why we believe the ICO’s decision raises important questions of principle for everyone online which should be considered by an impartial court based on all the relevant evidence.”
However, Rachel Coldicutt, chief executive of Doteveryone, a think tank that promotes responsible technology, believed the penalty was justified, and that Facebook had a responsibility to protect all users’ data at all times.
“Whether or not this data was used to influence the outcome of the referendum is a red herring – and frankly, they should pay the fine and concentrate on looking like a mature, trustworthy business,” she stated. “Facebook has been in enough trouble for deflection recently; after the Definers story broke last week, they should know when to stop digging and when to start taking responsibility.”
Facebook’s challenge against the penalty will be considered by a General Regulatory Chamber tribunal. If they’re unhappy with the decision, they can take the case to the Court of Appeal.
“Any organisation issued with a monetary penalty notice by the Information Commissioner has the right to appeal the decision to the First-tier Tribunal,” a spokesman for the ICO said in a statement. “The progression of any appeal is a matter for the tribunal. We have not yet been notified by the tribunal that an appeal has been received.”
Despite the scandal, is a fine of £500,000 too much for Facebook to pay? Or do you believe the fine was more than well-justified in the circumstances? Let us know in the comments sect ion down below.
In other recent Facebook news, Mark Zuckerberg has said that he won’t step down as Facebook Chairman, and Facebook has been experiencing recent outages in the US and in the UK, as well as their stock tumbling down 6% earlier this week.
Story by Emily Clark
Featured Photo Credit: CNet