FOUR MONTHS after Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted, the company has been handed its first financial penalty over the fiasco.

On Wednesday, the Information Commissioner's Office [ICO] proposed a $500,000  fine for social media giant. The sum is a record penalty imposed by the UK's data watchdog, but by Facebook's standards, it was a chump change.

For its role in a controversy  that covers multiple elections and saw the details of millions of Facebook users compromised, the world's fifth biggest company, run by the world's fourth-richest man, faces a fine equal to the price of a one-bed flat in Zone 2.

Facebook's revenues last year totalled $40.7 billion, so half a million pounds takes just under 10 minutes to make back. Facebook spent twice that much on private planes for Mark Zuckerberg last year.

Cushioning the blow further, Facebook's fine could well end up being reduced, if the company challenges it, or elects to pay early. The paucity of the penalty is down to reluctance on the part of the ICO.

The regulators hands were tied by the 1998 Data Protection Act, a law that pre-dates Facebook by six years. Its devisers never anticipated the scale of data controversies that would erupt the next century.

GDPR, the new European law that supersedes the act, came into force in May. Under it, Facebook would have faced a maximum fine of $1.6 billion, 4 percent of last years 'revenues.

However, the loop hole that exposed 87 million users private details to be unwittingly collected and passed to Cambridge Analytica was closed in 2015.

Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, admitted as much on Wednesday when she suggested that under new laws, the company could have been fined  hundreds of millions of dollars.

She claimed the reputational damage of being fined was more significant.

The World Students Society thanks author and researcher James Titcomb.


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