The Cambridge Analytica saga has been going on now for more than a year. The long and the short of what we’ve learned thus far is that the company tried to hoover up as much user data as it possibly could. The brunt of these revelations, however, came from either Facebook or whistleblowers. The company itself has yet to give an honest account of how it accumulated millions of data points that it used for political ad targeting, or even how much it collected. We may learn a whole lot more in the coming weeks.
Yesterday, SCL–the U.K.-based parent company of Cambridge Analytica, which filed for bankruptcy last year–pleaded guilty to breaking British data laws. The case was brought to court by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), in response to a complaint filed by American professor David Carroll. Carroll, in 2017, had requested to have the data the company collected about him.
British law dictates that companies must comply and hand over the data when requested. SCL refused on the basis that Carroll is American and therefore outside of the U.K.’s legal purview. The courts disagreed. And now the company has admitted that it did not hand over the required data, and has thus been found guilty. It’s been fined £15,000 (around $19,100). Professor Carroll will receive a “victim surcharge” of £170 ($217).
So this was the basis of the guilty plea. I’ve got to say this does not smell good. There seems to be no intention to actually hand over @profcarroll‘s data. Was pleading guilty just easiest way of getting off hook & not answering qs in open court? pic.twitter.com/OdpbfOBMDf
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) January 9, 2019
SCL, mind you, has not yet given the data to Carroll. It has held out from doing so throughout this entire ordeal. But, as the Daily Beast reports, there is one important update with yesterday’s plea: SCL has allegedly now handed over its server passwords to the ICO. The news site writes: “The court was told Wednesday that Cambridge Analytica and its related companies had not provided the relevant passwords to the ICO to access that data, but the administrators had now done so.” This is perhaps one of the biggest developments in recent memory, in that it means investigators will finally be able to look at SCL’s back end and get a sense for just how much data it collected.
Now that the ICO has the passwords, we wait for its report. There is also another U.K. High Court date in March, where we may also learn more information from the company.
For now, we have the guilty plea and the knowledge that more may be disclosed down the line. Carroll, for his troubles, will get a couple hundred bucks. And, hopefully, his data soon.