The Federal Trade Commission has ruled that Cambridge Analytica deceived Facebook users it collected personal data from. The incident erupted into a major privacy scandal for Facebook and resulted in the company being fined $5 billion.
This means nothing — The FTC in today’s decision ordered Cambridge Analytica to return or delete the offending data, and adhere to tougher privacy guidelines. The whole debacle already took the company down, however, and they ended operations last year. In practice the ruling doesn’t do very much at this point. It doesn’t include any further dictates for Facebook.
The fiasco began when it came to light that Cambridge Analytica was compiling voter profiles using Facebook user data improperly collected from a college professor’s “research” app. The company briefly worked with the Trump campaign on ad targeting so you can imagine why people were upset. Facebook was hit with that enormous (though small, relatively) fine after emails leaked revealing that the company was aware of Cambridge Analytica’s access to the data and didn’t do much about it.
“The Federal Trade Commission issued an Opinion finding that the data analytics and consulting company Cambridge Analytica, LLC engaged in deceptive practices to harvest personal information from tens of millions of Facebook users for voter profiling and targeting,” the agency wrote in its announcement.
Facebook is fine — The $5 billion fine Facebook had to pay was largely viewed by the public as a slap on the wrist. The company’s total revenue for 2018 was $55 billion and its stock price has only continued an upward rise despite repeated privacy scandals. Consumer trust surrounding Facebook has plummeted, but it’s a monopoly company that acquires or squeezes out its competitors, so while there has been slight decline in its userbase, the company shows no signs of weakening no matter how much the FTC calls it out.