Facebook is lodging an appeal against the record fine of £500,000 levied against it by the Information Commissioner’s Office, arguing that the penalty “challenges some of the basic principles of how people should be allowed to share information online”.
The company, which was fined the maximum amount allowable for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal earlier this year, had until Wednesday to launch an appeal or accept the fine.
Fighting the fine does not mean Facebook disputes that it made errors in the case of Cambridge Analytica, the company says, but ensures that it has a chance to defend what it sees as a point of principle in court.
Anna Benckert, the company’s associate general counsel in Europe, said in a statement: “We have said before that we wish we had done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica in 2015. We made major changes to our platform back then and have also significantly restricted the information app developers can access. And we are investigating all historic apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform policies in 2014.”
Facebook argues that the core of the ICO’s enforcement is now broader than the simple questions raised in the Cambridge Analytica case, owing to the lack of harm to British citizens from that scandal.
“The ICO’s investigation stemmed from concerns that UK citizens’ data may have been impacted by Cambridge Analytica,” Benckert said, “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 [Aleksandr] 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.”
Benckert argues that the same rationale that the ICO is using to fine the company would also mean that it would breach data protection guidelines “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.”
The ICO declined to comment.
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