Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has revealed that the Government will look into strengthening the powers of the Information Commissioner’s Office in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal after the regulator admitted it has yet to secure a warrant to examine the company’s servers.
The delay comes despite Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham announcing on Monday night that she would request an “urgent” warrant to enter Cambridge Analytic’s London offices to investigate claims over the harvesting on 50 million Facebook users’ data.
In an update on the ICO’s website, the regulator said that a High Court judge “has adjourned the ICO’s application for a warrant relating to Cambridge Analytica until Friday (today)”. The ICO said it would “be in court to continue to pursue the warrant to obtain access to data and information to take forward our investigation”.
It has been reported that the judge granted an extension because CA’s legal counsel was unavailable.
Hancock has now said that the Government will consider further strengthening the ICO’s powers to investigate the misuse of personal data.
The move follows questions raised in the Commons about the length of time it has taken for the ICO to secure the warrant. Labour MP Liam Byrne said: “[It is] ludicrous that it has taken so long for [Denham] to get a search warrant for CA’s offices, and it is ludicrous that people frustrating her investigations do not face jail for that frustration.”
Hancock said: “If following evidence from this investigation we need to further strengthen those powers, then I am willing to consider that.”
Hancock later said “the system is not good enough” when asked if he was happy with the CA stand off. He hinted that he would grant Denham additional powers by introducing amendments to the UK Data Protection Bill that would give her additional powers “to go in faster” once an investigation had begun and that the Commissioner should be able to force individuals to give testimony.”
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