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U.K. watchdog: Cambridge Analytica must release U.S. voter data

May 5 (UPI) — A British watchdog ordered Cambridge Analytica’s data controller to turn over all information it’s collected on American voters or face criminal prosecution.

The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office, an independent authority, issued an enforcement notice to the consulting firm Friday, according to the Guardian.

SCL Elections, a British affiliate data controller for Cambridge Analytica, has been ordered to comply or appeal the order within 30 days or it could face criminal prosecution.

The ICO notice stems from David Carroll, an associate professor at Patterson School of Design in New York. Carroll appealed to the ICO for the consulting firm to share the personal data it gathered on him. Carroll asked Cambridge Analytica to release his data a year before word got out that the company breached the data of 87 million Facebook users. He said he had not received a complete response.

Carroll’s test case opens the door for 240 million other U.S. voters to request their data from the British-based data mining firm under British laws for data protection, the Guardian reported, since the company has claimed to have up to 7,000 data points on 240 million Americans.

Cambridge Analytica, which ran data for President Donald Trump‘s campaign, has been at the center of the Facebook scandal over online privacy leading it to shut down operations Wednesday. It blamed a “siege of media coverage” blasting the company over the scandal for driving customers away to the point it was no longer viable.

Still, ICO Commissioner Elizabeth Denham told the Independent the company’s closure would not shield it from criminal prosecution.

“Whether or not the people behind the company decide to fold their operation, a continued refusal to engage with the ICO will potentially breach an Enforcement Notice and that then becomes a criminal matter,” Denham said.

“The ICO has been investigating the SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica as part of a wider investigation into the use of personal data and analytics by political campaigns, social media companies and others,” an ICO spokesperson stated on the watchdog’s website.

The controversy dates to 2015, when Cambridge University academic Aleksandr Kogan and his company Global Science Research posted a quiz app on Facebook, called “This Is Your Digital Life,” to gather data on 270,000 users and the users’ friends, then shared it with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook told the company to delete the data, since it was against policy to pass it on to a third party, but the scandal resurfaced a couple months ago when Cambridge Analytica co-founder Christopher Wylie revealed the company was holding onto the data. Wylie said the company was initially funded by billionaire Robert Mercer and former Breitbart editor and former White House adviser Steve Bannon.

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