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Facebook agrees to pay $644,000 fine over Cambridge Analytica

The social network is coughing up the money but denies liability.

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Facebook is paying up.

SOPA Images/Getty Images

Facebook agreed on Wednesday to pay a £500,000 ($644,000) fine issued by the UK's data protection watchdog following last year's Cambridge Analytica revelations. However, the social network made no admission of liability over the mishandling of user data.

The UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) opened an investigation in early 2018 into the use of data analytics for political purposes. The investigation focused on Cambridge University researcher Aleksandr Kogan, who had access to vast swathes of Facebook user data and then passed the data to consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked on campaigns for Brexit and Donald Trump's bid for the US presidency.

A year ago, the ICO fined Facebook the maximum amount possible for allowing people's data to be mishandled. 

"The ICO's main concern was that UK citizen data was exposed to a serious risk of harm," Deputy Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said Wednesday in a statement. "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."

Facebook appealed the fine but has now agreed to pay the amount, according to a statement from the ICO. As part of the agreement Facebook will be able to "retain" documents disclosed by the ICO for its own internal investigation, which has been partly on hold while the case in the UK continues. The company also agreed to continue to comply with the ICO's investigation.

Harry Kinmonth, associate general counsel at Facebook, said that the company is "pleased" to have reached an agreement.

"As we have said before, we wish we had done more to investigate claims about Cambridge Analytica in 2015," he said in a statement. "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 said Facebook continues to work toward better compliance with data protection laws.

"We expect that Facebook will be able to move forward and learn from the events of this case," said Dipple-Johnstone.