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Facebook appeals Cambridge Analytica fine by UK watchdog

Facebook has appealed against a fine imposed by the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The ICO has proposed the social network pay a £500,000 penalty for failing to make suitable checks on apps and developers, which it considers a “serious breach of the law”.

The penalty is a result of the discovery that at the University of Cambridge, an academic used a personality quiz to harvest up to 87m Facebook users’ details – some of which was used by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to target political advertising in the US.

In the UK, a probe by the ICO revealed that there was no evidence that UK citizens were among those targeted. It was initially thought that over a million UK-based users had their details exposed.

Despite this, the ICO insists that Facebook pay a maximum fine for putting UK members at risk and failing to act after learning about the problem.

The General Regulatory Chamber tribunal, an independent body, will consider the case which the ICO says it is yet to be informed about.

Facebook’s lawyer, Anna Beckert, said in a statement: “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.

“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.”

A spokesman for the ICO said: “Any organisation issued with a monetary penalty notice by the Information Commissioner has the right to appeal the decision to the First-tier Tribunal. 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.”