An application for a warrant by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to search the offices of scandal-hit data firm Cambridge Analytica has been delayed until Friday after a judge adjourned the request for 24 hours.
“A High Court judge has adjourned the ICO’s application for a warrant relating to Cambridge Analytica until Friday,” the ICO said in a prepared statement, declining to elaborate on why the delay had been handed down.
Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said she was seeking the warrant after Channel 4 broadcast secretly recorded videos of Cambridge Analytica executives boasting of their use of dirty tricks to influence elections.
The company is under fire after a whistleblower said he worked with the firm to improperly gain access to data on 50 million Facebook users. The data was allegedly used to help influence the 2016 US presidential election.
The development came as a former Facebook employee told MPs the company had lost control of users’ data, and that hundreds of millions of users were likely to have had their information gathered using tactics similar to those used by Cambridge Analytica.
“Surely unbelievable that the UK’s information commissioner is STILL waiting to see a judge who will grant a warrant to go in and search the premises … by the time she gets in there how much evidence will be left?” wrote Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow on Twitter, in reference to the judge’s decision.
Cambridge Analytica said earlier this week it would agree to the ICO visiting its offices, “subject to our agreeing the scope of the inspection”.
Reports said storage crates were collected from the building in which the firm has its central London offices on Tuesday, not long before the company suspended chief executive Alexander Nix.
The company had previously agreed to be audited by Facebook, and the social network’s auditors, Stroz Friedberg, were present in Cambridge Analytica’s offices on Monday before leaving at the ICO’s request.
The ICO, which was already probing the use of personal data in politics, is set to gain expanded powers later this year with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Those powers include the ability to fine an organisation up to 4 percent of its global turnover.
On Wednesday, Sandy Parakilas, a former Facebook platform manager whose task it was to monitor for data breaches by third-party software developers from 2011 to 2012, gave evidence via videolink to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, saying the company failed to effectively monitor access to data by third parties.
He said that “personal identifiable data was basically allowed to leave Facebook” and “was not really controlled”.
Parakilas said hundreds of millions of people may have had their data collected without explicitly giving their permission because third-party apps were able to collect information on users’ contacts.
“The real challenge here is Facebook was allowing developers to access data of people who hadn’t explicitly granted that,” he told the committee. “If I use a Facebook app and agree to give permission to my friends’ data, and you’re my friend, then the developer gets your data too.”
He said Facebook’s priority was to expand its business and that data protection was secondary.
“All of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he told The Guardian earlier this week.
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