On January 9th 2019, representatives of Cambridge Analytica pleaded guilty to “failing to comply with an enforcement notice issued by the national data protection watchdog” at Hendon Magistrates’ court, NW London. The court appearance and admission came after a list of scandals involving democratic elections and referendums, as well as a huge ongoing investigation into Facebook’s misuse of its users’ data.
As a result of the admission Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL Elections, have been fined a mere £15,000 and forced to pay the £6,000 costs of the court proceeding, as well as a £170 victim surcharge to David Caroll – a USA based professor who initiated the process by requesting his data from Cambridge Analytica.
The court case comes off the back of a request for data which was made by the above mentioned David Caroll. Cambridge Analytica failed to comply with the UK law regarding data harvesting and sharing by firstly refusing to provide full disclosure to when David requested his data and then by failing to comply with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office when they requested it.
The exact law which they were in breach of is: s47 (1) of the Data Protection Act 1998.
What Does This Mean?
For the general public, however, it sadly paints a rather disturbing image of the lack of true freedom and democracy which is offered by our political and legal systems. While they may not have pleaded guilty to inappropriately using the data they have harvested on people, by admitting guilt to the above does lead to many more questions and, probably, does mean that they have many more skeletons in their closet.
At present we can only speculate what the full ICO investigation will present to the public and, sadly, the damage which may have been done by the actions of one irresponsible data firm in pursuit of money are going to take some time to resolve.