It’s more bad news for Facebook. The social networking giant faces a fine of a half a million pounds in Britain for failing to protect people’s online data connected to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, according to a report published by the country’s privacy watchdog on Wednesday. The financial penalty would represent the first levy worldwide against the tech giant for its role in the alleged abuse. As part of an ongoing investigation into the use of data by political groups, Elizabeth Denham, the U.K.’s Information Commissioner, or ICO, said Facebook broke the country’s data protection rules by making users’ information available to a third-party app linked to Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm. Facebook also was not transparent about how people’s digital information would then be used by these companies, particularly in relation to political campaigns.
“Facebook has failed to provide the protections required under data protection laws,” Denham told reporters ahead of the report’s publication. The £500,000 fine, which is the largest financial penalty the regulator can levy, “sends a clear signal that I consider this as a significant issue if you look at the impact of the data breach,” she added.
The fine is a mere rounding error compared to Facebook’s $5.9 billion profit in the first three months of 2018. If the abuse had occurred under Europe’s new privacy standards, which came into force on May 25, the company could have been subject to potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in financial penalties.
In response, Facebook said it had taken steps against Cambridge Analytica in 2015 to shut down inappropriate collection of data, and that it is working with U.K. and other countries’ authorities in ongoing investigations around the world.