Cambridge Analytica: Facebook appeals £500,000 fine issued by ICO

Facebook has decided to appeal the £500,000 fine issued to it by the Information Commissioner's Office for failing to prevent data analytics firms from harvesting personal details of millions of users.

In July this year, the ICO announced the exemplary £500,000 fine issued to Facebook under the Data Protection Act, 1998 and said the fine was justified as Facebook was not transparent about how data of millions of users was collected and processed by data analytics apps.

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"Facebook, with Cambridge Analytica, has been the focus of the investigation since February when evidence emerged that an app had been used to harvest the data of 50 million Facebook users across the world. This is now estimated at 87 million.

"The ICO’s investigation concluded that Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people’s information. It also found that the company failed to be transparent about how people’s data was harvested by others," the watchdog said.

"New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters. But this cannot be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law. Fines and prosecutions punish the bad actors, but my real goal is to effect change and restore trust and confidence in our democratic system," said Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

Facebook appeals ICO's verdict

Facebook today decided to appeal the fine issued by ICO on grounds that even though a personality app on Facebook harvested data of up to 87 million Facebook users and subsequently shared such user data with data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, none of the affected users was based in the UK.

"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," said Anna Benckert, Facebook's legal representative.

"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," she added.

According to BBC, Facebook's appeal will be heard and considered by a General Regulatory Chamber tribunal, and if Facebook is not satisfied by the decision of the tribunal, it may choose to approach the Court of Appeal.

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