Brazil surpasses UK in Facebook fine over Cambridge Analytica scandal

The $1.6 million fine follows investigations around the use of personal data in political campaigns.
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

The Brazilian government has fined Facebook following an investigation around the misuse of personal data belonging to nearly half a million users in political campaigns.

The 6,6 million reais ($1.6 million) fine was issued by the country's Ministry of Justice and Public Security and relates to the data misuse scandal by the social networking firm and consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which harvested the personal data of about 87 million Facebook users through a personality quiz app called This Is Your Digital Life.

The fine applied by the Brazilian government pales in comparison to the $5 billion Facebook paid in the US to settle a government lawsuit. However, it is larger than the £500,000 ($656,000) fine issued by the UK data protection watchdog earlier this year, also resulting from an investigation around the Cambridge Analytica case.

This is the maximum amount that could be applied before new data protection rules came into place - the Brazilian General Personal Data Protection Act is due to go live in August next year. Last month, a bill has proposed postponing the date to August 15, 2022.

A statement issued by the Ministry noted that data belonging to 443,000 Brazilian users was used for purposes that were "at the very least, questionable" and that Facebook seemed unable to demonstrate that the number of users affected was any smaller than that. The abuse in terms of personal data handling relates to both Facebook Inc and the company's Brazilian subsidiary.

According to the statement, both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica should have been "much more careful in the management of that data, since the consent model had relevant implications to the people whose data was exposed."

Facebook had not responded to ZDNet's requests for comment by the time of publication.

A global survey released by IBM with 11,000 consumers in 11 countries including Brazil has found that 96 percent of Brazilians believe companies don't do enough to protect their personal information.

In terms of control over what happens to their data, 5 in 10 Brazilian consumers know that their information is always, or often shared with other organizations they are unaware of. Some 81 percent of Brazilians admitted to having lost control in terms of how their data is being used by companies.

In addition, the report has found that 6 in 10 Brazilians know someone who has been a victim of a data leak or have been through such situations themselves.

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