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Regulators fine Facebook over Cambridge Analytica

During our long springtime discussion of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, a key question
July 10 · Issue #161 · View online
The Interface
During our long springtime discussion of the Cambridge Analytica data privacy scandal, a key question hanging over the affair was: does it matter? In other words, would Facebook face any long-term consequences for the way a third-party developer misused information about 87 million people? Or would the entire thing recede into the background?
If you look at the stock price, or the company’s user growth, the entire thing indeed seems to have faded into the background. But today, for the first time, there was an actual financial consequence to the scandal. Here are Sheera Frankel and Adam Satariano:
Facebook was hit with the maximum possible fine in Britain for allowing the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest the information of millions of people without their consent, in what amounts to the social network’s first financial penalty since the data leak was revealed.
The fine of 500,000 pounds, or about $660,000, represents a tiny sum for Facebook, which brings in billions of dollars in revenue every year. But it is the largest fine that can be levied by the British Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent government agency that enforces the country’s data-protection laws.
The ICO is expected to issue a full report on its inquiry Wednesday, the Times reported, and is “expected to detail the ways in which data gleaned from social media companies is increasingly being used to target voters by political campaigns.”
Facebook sent me the same statement on the subject, from chief privacy officer Erin Egan, that it sent everyone who asked: 
“As we have said before, we should have done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica and take action in 2015. We have been working closely with the ICO in their investigation of Cambridge Analytica, just as we have with authorities in the US and other countries. We’re reviewing the report and will respond to the ICO soon.”
Of course, there have been other consequences for Facebook from Cambridge Analytica. The Justice Department and FBI are both investigating. The Security and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission have opened investigations of their own.
In the social media era, scandals move very fast. But governments move very slow. Facebook is destined to live through Cambridge Analytica twice — once in the court of public opinion, and then again, many months later, as the various investigations yield new punishments, reports, and headlines. 
The ICO’s fine against Facebook is small indeed — about seven minutes’ worth of Facebook revenue, according to Times reporter Kevin Roose. But when it comes to state-level consequences against the company, it’s very much just the beginning.

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