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Facebook’s UK Cambridge Analytica fine was incredibly small

Facebook’s UK Cambridge Analytica fine was incredibly small

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Officials said this week that Facebook would face a £500,000 fine from the UK over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but it was a drop in the bucket for the massive company.

“We considered these contraventions to be so serious we imposed the maximum penalty under the previous legislation,” the head of the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said in a statement. As some pointed out this week, however, it will take a tiny amount of time for Facebook to recoup that loss.

In fact, it’s difficult to even properly visualize. Facebook made $5.1 billion in net income last quarter, a figure that’s difficult to see next to $644,000, the USD equivalent of the fine:

It’s only when you look at the average net income per day over that quarter that it’s possible to register the fine at all, but even then, it might lead you to squint:

An hourly view finally gives some sense of scope. Still, even by that metric, Facebook’s profit dwarfs the fine:

At that rate, the company would earn back the equivalent in a little more than 15 minutes. But the fines could be worse for future incidents. When UK regulators announced the fine, they made sure to note Facebook is now bound by the strict rules of Europe’s GDPR protections, under which the company could have been fined $22 million — an amount it would take the company at least a little more time to earn back.