London, Jul 11: The giant social media network 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.
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 agency has been investigating the potential misuse of personal data by political campaigns since May 2017. The examination took on new urgency after The New York Times and other organizations reported in March that Cambridge Analytica, which was based in London, had improperly gathered the data of up to 87 million Facebook users.
Cambridge Analytica, which had ties to President Trump's campaign, used the information to build psychographic profiles of American voters.
In an initial report of its investigation on Tuesday, the Information Commissioner's Office said it had concluded that "Facebook contravened the law by failing to safeguard people's information. It also found that the company failed to be transparent about how people's data was harvested by others."
Facebook has apologized, including in ads shown in a London kiosk, for not better protecting its users’ data.
In the United States, Facebook faces multiple inquiries from federal agencies. The Justice Department and the F.B.I. each recently broadened their inquiries into Cambridge Analytica by also focusing on Facebook. Facebook will have a chance to respond to the Information Commissioner Office's initial report.