Cambridge Analytica Found Guilty of Breaking Data Laws

ICO Cambridge Analytica Ultimatum

The disgraced analytics firm’s parent company, SCL Elections, has been fined £15,000 plus costs for failing to hand over the personal data of a US citizen.

SCL Elections was fined after pleading guilty for not complying with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) enforcement notice, contrary to sections 47(1) and 60(2) of the Data Protection Act 1998.

After Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the 2016 Trump presidential campaign became known, Professor David Carroll, a US citizen, requested to see what data the firm held on him. Under the Data Protection Act, the company was legally obliged to disclose that information to Carroll.

He is one of the millions of individuals whose data was harvested by the company. Carroll made the request in July 2017, and because his data had been processed in the UK, he also filed a complaint with the ICO.

In March 2018, he received two files containing his voter registration information, historical participation in elections and an ideological model of how he might vote in the future. However, both Carroll and the ICO suspected the company was holding back information, and the UK watchdog ordered a much fuller disclosure.

Data Handling Firms Must Be Held Accountable

The company refused to reveal the rest of Carroll’s data, claiming that because he was American, and outside British jurisdiction, he had no more right to the data “than a member of the Taliban sitting in a cave in the remotest corner of Afghanistan.”

The ICO’s enforcement noticed arrived one day before the company went into administration last May and SCL opted to ignore the order, which forced the ICO to launch a criminal case against it.

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The UK’s Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said the prosecution should act as a “warning” to others.

“Organisations that handle personal data must respect people’s legal privacy rights. Where that does not happen and companies ignore ICO enforcement notices, we will take action.

“This prosecution, the first against Cambridge Analytica, is a warning that there are consequences for ignoring the law.”

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