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Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: UK data watchdog seeks court warrant

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

The UK’s Information Commissioner is looking to get a court warrant to access and search the offices of Cambridge Analytica.

The London-based political consulting firm is accused of harvesting the personal data of 50 million Facebook users in a bid to influence the 2016 US general election, which resulted in Donald Trump’s victory.

Cambridge Analytica denied any wrongdoing after Channel 4 News covertly filmed some of the firm’s executives saying they would potentially resort to bribery in an attempt to discredit politicians. Cambridge Analytica said in a statement that events had been “grossly misrepresented”.  

“In playing along with this line of conversation, and partly to spare our ‘client’ from embarrassment, we entertained a series of ludicrous hypothetical scenarios,” the company said.

“Cambridge Analytica does not condone or engage in entrapment, bribes or so-called ‘honeytraps’,” it added.

Facebook’s billionaire founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been asked to give evidence about his company’s ties to Cambridge Analytica at a parliamentary committee in the UK, but will not be present at an open meeting scheduled for Facebook’s employees. The meeting will instead be chaired by the company’s deputy general counsel, Paul Grewal.

Zuckerberg is yet to comment on the scandal and has not made any public appearances since the story first broke.

Tumbling shares

According to the Financial Times, Facebook’s share price took a tumble as a result of the revelations, falling by a further 3% on Tuesday, after decreasing by 6.8% on Monday. The biggest decline followed on from a Bloomberg report stating that the US Federal Trade Commission was going to probe the tech giant over whether it violated the terms of consent relating to its use of users’ personal data.

In the meantine, Sandy Parakilas, Facebook’s former platform operations manager, told the Guardian that he’d warned top-ranking execs at the tech giant about its seemingly relaxed approach to data protection.

“My concerns were that 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 said.

Parakilas went on to note that “people didn’t read or understand” Facebook’s terms of service and settings and that the firm failed to use its enforcement mechanisms.