Facebook seems to be back in defensive mode.
Its director of policy in Europe, Richard Allen, quibbled on Channel 4 News on Wednesday about whether the company would pay a £500,000 penalty for breaking UK data protection laws. Allen, a life peer and long-time lobbyist for Facebook, refused to agree that the company had broken the law.
That’s after the UK’s privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), said Facebook had broken the law when it failed to protect people’s information in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It said it planned to fine Facebook half a million pounds, the maximum penalty.
“We accept that there are things that we did wrong and we’ve apologised to our users for that, we accept that there are things [the Information Commissioner] describes in the report we did wrong,” Allen told Channel 4 News.
“There’s a separate debate about whether or not the legal analysis and the fines are correct, whether that is the right way to deal with it. That doesn’t mean we don’t accept we did things wrong and it doesn’t mean we don’t respect the Information Commissioner’s Office and that we’ve worked closely with it.”
The ICO’s investigation is ongoing and centres on an app developed by the academic Aleksandr Kogan which scraped data from 87 million Facebook users, then handed that information to political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
The ICO said it was digging into whether Cambridge Analytica and its affiliates used Facebook data to manipulate voters in the UK’s Brexit referendum and the US presidential election in 2016.
The watchdog will make its final report in October. In the meantime, Facebook can respond to its interim report and it can still contest both the fine and the findings.
Watch Facebook’s Richard Allen talking about the ICO fine on Channel 4 from 3’53: