British information watchdog granted warrant to search Cambridge Analytica office

The controversial data firm is facing investigations in the UK, EU and US

British information watchdog granted warrant to search Cambridge Analytica office

Picture by: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

Updated 22.00

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has been granted a warrant to search the London office of data firm Cambridge Analytica.

Enforcement officers entered the office this evening following the court's decision.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has been seeking access to the London-based data firm's records and data, and sought a court warrant after the company failed to respond to her office's previous deadline.

A High Court judge in the UK told the court he will give his reasons for granting the application on Tuesday.

In a statement, the ICO said: "We’re pleased with the decision of the judge and we plan to execute the warrant shortly.

"This is just one part of a larger investigation into the use of personal data for political purposes and we will now need time to collect and consider the evidence."

A search of Cambridge Analytica's premises by Facebook's own investigators was called off earlier this week after a request from the ICO, who warned "such a search would potentially compromise a regulatory investigation".

Enforcement officers working for the Information Commissioner's Office entering the offices of Cambridge Analytica in central London. Picture by: Yui Mok/PA Wire/PA Images

Controversy

Cambridge Analytica - best known for its role in Donald Trump's presidential campaign - has come under scrutiny after allegations that it used data from millions of Facebook profiles without authorisation.

It has prompted investigations in the EU and US, amid reports that more than 50 million Facebook users were impacted.

Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix has been suspended by the firm to allow for a full independent investigation, following claims made by Mr Nix during a Channel 4 News undercover investigation.

In a statement today, the company's acting CEO Dr Alexander Tayler said his company believed all data obtained by research company GSR in 2014 had been in line with Facebook's rules.

He insisted they deleted all raw data following a request by Facebook the following year.

He said: "Please can I be absolutely clear: we did not use any GSR data in the work we did in the 2016 US presidential election.

"We are now undertaking an independent third-party audit to verify that we do not hold any GSR data. We have been in touch with the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) since February 2017, when we hosted its team in our London office to provide total transparency on the data we hold, how we process it, and the legal basis for us processing it."

He added: "I want to make sure we remain committed to helping the ICO in their investigations."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded to the controversy earlier this week, pledging that the social network would take a number of measures to further protect users' data in the wake of the scandal.