Cambridge Analytica owner hit with £15,000 fine for disobeying UK ICO

10 Jan 2019

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Cambridge Analytica parent company SCL Elections has been fined for failing to comply with an enforcement notice.

A UK court has fined SCL Elections £15,000 in the UK after it pleaded guilty to failing to respond to an information request from a data subject.

The request was made by US citizen David Carroll and was backed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK.

SCL Elections did not comply with request

A report from The Guardian said that the ICO had ordered Cambridge Analytica parent company SCL Elections to respond to Carroll’s request for a copy of data the company held on him in early 2017. He was provided with basic information and a document featuring political predictions made about him. Upon asking for further information about how these predictions were formulated, Carroll did not receive anything further from SCL Elections.

He has still not received a response to this second request, despite the ICO issuing an enforcement notice in May last year. Carroll has also brought a civil case against the company. SCL shut down operations in May 2018.

Legal representatives for SCL Elections’ administrators said in court that the firm’s servers had been seized by the ICO in March 2018, but noted that the company still neglected to issue any sort of response to the enforcement notice.

District judge Kenneth Grant, who presided over the case, said: “The actions of the company amounted to a wilful disregard of the enforcement notice which was served last year.

“I take into account and I am, of course, bound to take into account the company’s plea of guilty through the administrators, albeit a plea of guilty entered on the day of the hearing.”

Symbolic fine for Cambridge Analytica parent firm

The company was fined £15,000 and was also ordered to contribute £5,000 towards the legal costs of the ICO as well as pay a small victim surcharge.

UK information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “This prosecution, the first against Cambridge Analytica, is a warning that there are consequences for ignoring the law. Wherever you live in the world, if your data is being processed by a UK company, UK data protection laws apply.

“Organisations that handle personal data must respect people’s legal privacy rights. Where that does not happen and companies ignore ICO enforcement notices, we will take action.”

The fine, though paltry, is being viewed by some as a warning shot to other firms in the UK that may be mishandling data or have a history of doing so.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects