It was one of the biggest tech stories of the year, and arguably set Facebook’s “annus horribilis” in motion, when it was disclosed that the now-shuttered British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had used data on scores of Facebook users that had been improperly acquired.
The Information Commissioner’s Office, Britain’s privacy watchdog, levied a fine equivalent to $640,000 against the social networking giant. And then today came Facebook’s response: We don’t think we should have to pay.
The gist of the response from Facebook lawyer Anna Benckert is that because the privacy watchdog didn’t find any hard evidence that data from actual UK users was harvested and acquired by Cambridge Analytica, Facebook shouldn’t have to pay the fine. A statement from the lawyer to Business Insider reads:
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.
She went on to note that by allowing the ICO to fine companies like Facebook for these kinds of things, it would be the same thing as penalizing someone who forwards an email without having explicit permission to do so from the originator of that email.
The ICO’s penalty notice against Facebook is available to read here. It basically accuses Facebook of failing to protect users by allowing developers what amounts to carte blanche access to their data up until 2014. “Even after the breach was discovered in 2015,” BI notes, “the ICO said Facebook did not take sufficient action to ensure those who held the data deleted it.”
In case you missed it, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat down with CNN Tuesday for a rare interview offering his defense in light of some of the challenges that have confronted the company recently: