The Information Commissioner’s Office has confirmed it is examining the possible illegal acquisition of Facebook data by UK marketing firm Cambridge Analytica, and has promised to bring all its powers to bear during the investigation.
Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham announced on Saturday that her agency is “investigating the circumstances in which Facebook data may have been illegally acquired and used”.
She added: “It’s part of our ongoing investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes which was launched to consider how political parties and campaigns, data analytics companies and social media platforms in the UK are using and analysing people’s personal information to micro target voters.”
A second, more detailed statement followed on Monday, in which Denham said the ICO will investigate how Facebook data was acquired and used by Cambridge Analytica, its parent company SCL, and academic Dr Aleksandr Kogan.
"This is a complex and far-reaching investigation for my office and any criminal or civil enforcement actions arising from it will be pursued vigorously,” she said. “We are continuing to invoke all of our powers and are pursuing a number of live lines of inquiry.”
The BBC reported on Monday that the ICO had given Cambridge Analytica until 6pm to provide access to its servers – a deadline that came and went without access being granted.
"I'm not accepting their response so therefore I'll be applying to the court for a warrant," Denham said. "We need to get in there, we need to look at the databases, we need to look at the servers and understand how data was processed or deleted by Cambridge Analytica."
The company, which claims to specialise in data-focused marketing and political campaigns, is alleged to have used data from 50 million Facebook users, which was reportedly acquired via an online personality quiz developed by Kogan.