Italy’s data protection watchdog has issued Facebook with a €1 million (~$ 1.1M) fine for violations of local privacy law attached to the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal.
Last year it emerged that up to 87 million Facebook users had had their data siphoned out of the social media giant’s platform by an app developer working for the controversial (and now defunct) political data company, Cambridge Analytica.
The offences in question occurred prior to Europe’s tough new data protection framework, GDPR, coming into force — hence the relatively small size of the fine in this case, which has been calculated under Italy’s prior data protection regime. (Whereas fines under GDPR can scale as high as 4% of a company’s annual global turnover.)
Reached for comment a Facebook spokesperson said: “We have said before that we wish we had done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica in 2015. However, evidence indicates that no Italian user data was shared with Cambridge Analytica. Dr Kogan only shared data with Cambridge Analytica in relation to US users. We made major changes to our platform back then and have also significantly restricted the information which app developers can access. We’re focused on protecting people’s privacy and have invested in people, technology and partnerships, including hiring more than 20,000 people focused on safety and security over the last year. We will review the Garante’s decision and will continue to engage constructively with their concerns.”
Last year the UK’s DPA similarly issued Facebook with a £500k penalty for the Cambridge Analytica breach, although Facebook is appealing — in that case it has also highlighted the regulator not having found evidence UK users’ data was shared with Cambridge Analytica, though it clearly was processed by Kogan.
The Italian regulator says 57 Italian Facebook users downloaded Dr Aleksandr Kogan‘s Thisisyourdigitallife quiz app, which was the app vehicle used to scoop up Facebook user data en masse — with a further 214,077 Italian users’ also having their personal information processed without their consent as a result of how the app could access data on each user’s Facebook friends.
In an earlier intervention in March, the Italian regulator challenged Facebook over the misuse of the data — and the company opted to pay a reduced amount of €52,000 in the hopes of settling the matter.
However the Italian DPA has decided that the scale of the violation of personal data and consent disqualifies the case for a reduced payment — so it has now issued Facebook with a €1M fine.
“The sum takes into account, in addition to the size of the database, also the economic conditions of Facebook and the number of global and Italian users of the company,” it writes in a press release on its website [translated by Google Translate].
At the time of writing its full decision on the case was not available.
Late last year the Italian regulator fined Facebook €10M for misleading users over its sign in practices.
While, in 2017, it also slapped the company with a €3M penalty for a controversial decision to begin helping itself to WhatsApp users’ data — despite the latter’s prior claims that user data would never be shared with Facebook.
Going forward, where Facebook’s use (and potential misuse) of Europeans’ data is concerned, all eyes are on the Irish Data Protection Commission; aka its lead regulator in the region on account of the location of Facebook’s international HQ.
The Irish DPC has a full suite of open investigations into Facebook and Facebook-owned companies — covering major issues such as security breaches and questions over the legal basis it claims to process people’s data, among a number of other big tech related probes.
The watchdog has suggested decisions on some of this tech giant-related case-load could land this summer.
This report was updated with comment from Facebook