Facebook has agreed on a settlement with UK’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, consenting to pay the highest possible fine of £500,000 over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

ICO announced its intention to levy a penalty on Facebook in July 2018. Facebook originally decided to appeal against the charges citing lack of evidence – which saw a counter-appeal from ICO.

As a part of the latest agreement between the Zuckerberg-run social media network and the ICO, Facebook is dropping its legal appeal, however, it has made no admission to liability regarding the pay of fine.

Further, the company has secured a win in retaining the documents presented by ICO, which will help it conduct its own investigation regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In a statement regarding the settlement, ICO said:

The Commissioner considers that this agreement best serves the interests of all UK data subjects who are Facebook users. Both Facebook and the ICO are committed to continuing to work to ensure compliance with applicable data protection laws.

Adding that:

Parts of this investigation had previously been put on hold at the ICO’s direction and can now resume.

Under the terms of the agreement, the £500,000 fine will not go to the ICO but will be paid to HM Treasury’s consolidated fund.

Speaking on this, deputy commissioner, James Dipple-Johnstone, said;

The ICO welcomes the agreement reached with Facebook for the withdrawal of their appeal against our Monetary Penalty Notice and agreement to pay the fine. The ICO’s main concern was that UK citizen data was exposed to a serious risk of harm. Protection of personal information and personal privacy is of fundamental importance, not only for the rights of individuals, but also as we now know, for the preservation of a strong democracy. We are pleased to hear that Facebook has taken, and will continue to take, significant steps to comply with the fundamental principles of data protection. With this strong commitment to protecting people’s personal information and privacy, we expect that Facebook will be able to move forward and learn from the events of this case.

In a supporting statement, Harry Kinmonth, director and associate general counsel at Facebook, added;

We are pleased to have reached a settlement with the ICO. As we have said before, we wish we had done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica in 2015. We made major changes to our platform back then, significantly restricting the information which app developers could access. Protecting people’s information and privacy is a top priority for Facebook, and we are continuing to build new controls to help people protect and manage their information. The ICO has stated that it has not discovered evidence that the data of Facebook users in the EU was transferred to Cambridge Analytica by Dr Kogan. However, we look forward to continuing to cooperate with the ICO’s wider and ongoing investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes.