Facebook agrees to £500,000 fine over personal data use in political campaigns

Support us and go ad-free

Facebook has agreed to pay a fine of £500,000 following an investigation into the misuse of personal data in political campaigns.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) announced on Wednesday that the tech giant had withdrawn its appeal against the “monetary penalty notice” and would accept the fine without admitting any liability.

In 2017 the ICO opened a wide-ranging investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes and issued the penalty to the tech giant in October 2018.

The investigation found that between 2007 and 2014 Facebook processed user data by letting third-party app developers access personal information without the user’s informed consent.

The most high-profile aspect of this was political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica after it was found to have harvested data, which resulted in multiple investigations and fines.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Facebook’s settings at the time allowed app developers to access the personal data of not just the people who used their app, but of all of their friends as well.

The ICO also said in its 2018 complaint that the social media company did not take action quickly enough after the misuse of data was discovered in 2015.

The breach was thought to affect 87 million worldwide users with at least one million people based in the UK.

Following the ICO’s findings and issue of the penalty in October 2018, Facebook launched an appeal the following month.

In June 2019, an interim decision was made by the appeal court where the ICO was asked to disclose files about its decision-making process in order to examine potential bias against Facebook.

The ICO appealed against this decision in September before both parties came to the agreement announced on Wednesday.

Both appeals will now be withdrawn and Facebook and the ICO will pay their own legal costs. The fine will be paid to the Treasury.

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.

“We are pleased to hear that Facebook has taken, and will continue to take, significant steps to comply with the fundamental principles of data protection.”

Facebook director and associate general counsel Harry Kinmonth 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.

“We made major changes to our platform back then, significantly restricting the information which app developers could access.

“Protecting people’s information and privacy is a top priority for Facebook, and we are continuing to build new controls to help people protect and manage their information.”

The ICO’s wider investigation into the use of data analytics for political campaigning is ongoing.

Facebook is now able to continue with its own internal investigations into the Cambridge Analytica scandal on the direction of the ICO.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us