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Facebook escapes $2 billion penalty for now, slapped smaller fine

The Cambridge Analytica scandal came biting once again as Facebook (FB) was slapped with a fine of £500,000 ($662,900) by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK for breaching its Data Protection law. Meanwhile, the company escaped a much higher penalty prescribed under the European General Data Protection (GDPR) law, as the incident came to light before the enforcement of the new legislature. Well, for now.

Under the GDPR, a company may be fined 4% of its global turnover. In Facebook’s case, this becomes a mammoth amount of $1.9 billion. On the other hand, the £500,000 fine currently slapped on the social media giant is a maximum prescribed under the Data Protection Act of 1998.

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According to ICO, Facebook is being penalized for two breaches – failure to safeguard information provided by users to the platform, as well as for not maintaining transparency regarding how data is being harvested by third-party apps. The report also suggests that it was highly likely that the platform was used to target voters during the presidential elections in 2016.

Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, said in a statement, “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.”

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The ICO added that it would also sue SCL, which owns Cambridge Analytica. The analytics firm has been defunct following the outbreak of the scandal.

Facebook’s privacy chief Erin Egan told CNBC that the company is reviewing the report and will get back to ICO soon.

The walk of atonement

This may just be a beginning of the walk of atonement for the tech major. The US Federal Trade Commission may impose its own record fine over the data breach scandal soon enough. This is apart from the GDPR threat in the UK, where activist Max Schrems has filed multiple suits against Facebook, Google (GOOGL), Instagram and WhatsApp for allegedly forcing consent from users. In this case, fine could come in billions.

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