Facebook has been rocked by the ongoing Cambridge Analytica scandal, with $37bn (£26bn) wiped off its value as the Information Commissioner’s Office ratchets up its investigation by seeking a warrant to access the data company’s servers.
The ICO is seeking evidence as part of its ongoing probe into the company’s use of data analytics for political purposes – launched last year – and has been forced to apply to a court for a warrant today, after Cambridge Analytica failed to respond to a deadline for access to its records.
Commissioner Elizabeth Denham told Channel 4: “I’m not accepting their response so therefore I’ll be applying to the court for a warrant.”
The move comes amid reports that the ICO has demanded that Facebook “stands down” from its own investigation into the issue; it is understood that Facebook chiefs and lawyers were already in the Cambridge Analytica offices.
Downing Street has also waded in; Theresa May has called on the company to “co-operate fully” with the ICO, while Number 10 branded allegations that Cambridge Analytica harvested more than 50 million Facebook profiles in a data breach “very concerning”.
As if that wasn’t damaging enough, Channel 4 News has also broadcast undercover footage in which Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix appears to suggest tactics his company could use to discredit politicians online.
In the footage, when asked what “deep digging” could be done, Nix told an undercover reporter: “Oh, we do a lot more than that” and suggested one way to target an individual was to “offer them a deal that’s too good to be true and make sure that’s video recorded”.
Nix also said he could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house…” adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”. He continued: “I’m just giving you examples of what can be done and what has been done.”
Nix told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that he regarded the Channel 4 report as a “misrepresentation of the facts” and said he felt the firm had been “deliberately entrapped”.
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