LONDON (Reuters) – A British court fined a sister company of consulting firm Cambridge Analytica 15,000 pounds ($19,000) on Wednesday for failing to disclose fully what information it held on an individual who had asked to know, the data regulator said.
The Information Commissioner’s Officer (ICO) said it was the first prosecution of the now defunct Cambridge Analytica, a company it is investigating for how it used personal information gleaned on Facebook.
The ICO said SCL Elections Ltd, “also known as Cambridge Analytica”, pleaded guilty at a Magistrates’ Court in the London suburb of Hendon to breaching data legislation after it failed to comply with an enforcement notice the ICO issued last May ordering it to fully respond to the data request.
“This prosecution, the first against Cambridge Analytica, is a warning that there are consequences for ignoring the law,” Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement.
U.S. academic David Carroll had asked Cambridge Analytica in January 2017 to disclose data it held on him. When he felt the response from SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s agent, was incomplete, he complained to the ICO, which took up his case, rejecting the company’s stance that Carroll had no right to the regulator’s help as he was not a British citizen.
“Wherever you live in the world, if your data is being processed by a UK company, UK data protection laws apply,” Denham said.
On issuing the enforcement notice last May, Denham said SCL had “consistently refused to co-operate with our investigation” and refused to answer the ICO’s questions on the data it held on Professor Carroll: “what they had, where they got it from and on what legal basis they held it”.
The ICO said its investigation into Cambridge Analytica continued and it was “currently working to analyse materials seized during the investigation”.
As well as the regulator’s investigation, Britain’s parliament has looked into whether the data gleaned from around 87 million Facebook users was used to influence in the 2016 Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.
The lawyer who acted for SCL at Wednesday’s court hearing was not immediately available to comment.
(Reporting by Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan in London; Editing by James Emmanuel and Robin Pomeroy)