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The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has served a legal notice on SCL Elections Ltd ordering it give an academic all the personal information the company holds about him.
The Enforcement Notice gives the London-based data analytics company 30 days to comply with a subject access request (SAR) submitted by Professor David Carroll under the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998. Failure to do so is a criminal offence, punishable in the courts by an unlimited fine.
Professor Carroll, an academic based in the US, submitted a SAR to Cambridge Analytica on 10 January 2017. He received a reply from an email address at SCL Group informing him to submit a £10 fee and proof of identity to SCL Elections Ltd, which was said to be Cambridge Analytica’s agent.
He did so and on 27 March 2017, he received a spreadsheet from the SCL Group, marked for and on behalf of Cambridge Analytica and which was said to contain all of the personal data to which he was legally entitled.
Prof Carroll was not satisfied that he had been given all of the personal data held about him, nor an adequate explanation of where it had been obtained from or how it would be used, and complained to the ICO, which subsequently wrote to the data controller in September 2017, sharing his concerns.
The company’s reply refused to address the ICO’s questions and incorrectly stated Prof Caroll had no legal entitlement to it because he wasn’t a UK citizen or based in this country. The ICO reiterated this was not legally correct in a letter to SCL the following month.
In November 2017, the company replied, denying that the ICO had any jurisdiction or that Prof Carroll was legally entitled to his data, adding that SCL did “.. not expect to be further harassed with this sort of correspondence”.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said:
“The company has consistently refused to co-operate with our investigation into this case and has refused to answer our specific enquiries in relation to the complainant’s personal data – what they had, where they got it from and on what legal basis they held it.
“The right to request personal data that an organisation holds about you is a cornerstone right in data protection law and it is important that Professor Carroll, and other members of the public, understand what personal data Cambridge Analytica held and how they analysed it.
“We are aware of recent media reports concerning Cambridge Analytica’s future but 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.”