Italy’s privacy watchdog announced on Friday its decision to fine world-swallowing social platform Facebook €1 million (about $1.13 million) for the catastrophic mishandling of data associated with now-defunct Cambridge Analytica. Does that seem like a bargain to anyone else?
According to a press release, the Thisisyourdigitallife quiz that hoovered up the personal information of unwitting individuals obtained by Cambridge Analytica was downloaded by 57 Italians, which—through the terrifying network effects of Facebook—led to the improper handling of data belonging to over 214,000 people in the country. Assuming the company does not appeal and somehow reduce the fine, that’s less than $6 bucks for each person affected by Facebook’s irresponsibility—if that was even what happened to money derived from government privacy fines, which it isn’t.
In the full scope of Facebook’s missteps and subsequent counter-hits from regulators, a little over a million bucks is not the most comically low amount the company has been slapped with: Russia fined the Zuckerberg and Co a cheeky $50 back in April for failing to store user data on local servers per the country’s privacy laws. It’s also worth remembering that in the U.S., Facebook is expected to be hit with a fine of between $3 to $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission over the exact same infraction Italy is seeking a fraction of the same recompense for.
Let’s give a sense of proportionality here: Facebook made more than $15 billion in the first quarter of this year. These sorts of fines don’t repay the people materially harmed by bad privacy enforcement, but they should at least be sufficient to make companies reconsider the behavior that earned them the fine in the first place. The number Italy arrived at couldn’t even pay for a dozen of Facebook’s interns, let alone compel the social network to change its privacy-invading ways.