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Facebook drops appeal against Cambridge Analytica fine

By Hugh Wilson

Social media company pays modest fine in UK over privacy breach without admitting liability

Facebook has dropped its appeal against a fine of £500,000 ($643,00, €579,000) for its part in the Cambridge Analytica scandal but has made no admission of liability.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued the fine last October for breaches of data protection law after Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, obtained the personal data of 87 million Facebook users, at least a million of whom were British.

Facebook has dropped its appeal against the fine ‒ the maximum the ICO can levy. Harry Kinmonth, a lawyer representing Facebook, said: “We are pleased to have reached a settlement with the ICO. As we have said before, we wish we had done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica in 2015.”

ICO deputy commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said: “The ICO’s main concern was that UK citizen data was exposed to a serious risk of harm. Protection of personal information and personal privacy is of fundamental importance, not only for the rights of individuals but also, as we now know, for the preservation of a strong democracy.”

The social media company and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been criticised for their reaction to the scandal and in particular Zuckerberg’s refusal to appear before British politicians in 2018 to answer questions concerning the affair.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal occurred before the implementation of the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) in 2018. Had it occurred after that date, the potential fine could have been as high as 4 per cent of Facebook’s annual turnover, which was $55.8bn in 2018.

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