Sun, 16 Jun 2019

Cambridge Analytica parent firm slapped with huge fine

By Sheetal Sukhija, Arkansas State News
12 Jan 2019, 02:07 GMT+10

LONDON, U.K. - After failing to comply with a legal notice issued by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, SCL Elections has been slapped with a huge fine.

The U.K.'s Information Commissioner's Office dealt with a complaint filed by a U.S. citizen Prof David Carroll, who was one of millions of people whose personal information was harvested from a variety of sources by the company.

After the complaint was filed, in May last year, the company was issued an enforcement notice, a day before it went into administration.

Now, SCL Elections has admitted that it failed to comply with the ICO's legal notice.

The company has been slapped with a fine of 15,000 pounds plus costs for failing to hand over the personal data of Prof Carroll.

The complaint was filed a year before the Cambridge Analytica scandal blew up, when it was revealed that Facebook data that was collected through a personality quiz by a U.K. researcher identified as Dr Aleksandr Kogan, had been shared with the company, without consent from users.

At the time that the scandal blew up, concerns were high that some of the data that had been collected and wrongfully shared with the political marketing firm, may have been used to target political advertising in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the EU referendum.

While Cambridge Analytica has denied the misuse of data, several individual users expressed anger at how the political marketing firm was using their data.

It was also revealed that the firm had built profiles on up to 240 million Americans and boasted that it had 4,000 to 5,000 data points on each voter.

In a bid to understand the exact amount of his personal data that the company held, Prof Carroll asked the firm for details in July 2017.

He filed a complaint with the ICO too since his data had been processed in the U.K.

Subsequently, in March 2018, he was sent two files which contained his voter registration information, historical participation in elections and an ideological model of how he might vote in future.

However, the U.K. regulator ordered a much fuller disclosure since it felt that SCL was holding back information.

The company was fined on Thursday after ignoring ICO's order, which provoked the regulator to launch a criminal case against the firm.

After ICO announced its fine against the company, Prof Carroll posted a live stream on Twitter, in which he said, "This has taken two years of complex legal wrangling across two continents. Hopefully this test case will make it easier for others to recover their data."

He added, "Cambridge Analytica would rather be called criminals and be fined than hand over the data, which I find very strange."

Now, the district judge has fined the company 15,000 pounds for failing to comply with the enforcement notice, and has ordered SCL to pay a contribution of 6,000 pounds to the ICOs legal costs, as well as a victim surcharge of 170 pounds.

Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner said in a statement, "This prosecution, the first against Cambridge Analytica, is a warning that there are consequences for ignoring the law. Wherever you live in the world, if your data is being processed by a U.K. company, U.K. data protection laws apply. Organizations that handle personal data must respect peoples legal privacy rights. Where that does not happen and companies ignore ICO enforcement notices, we will take action."

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