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.”

 

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  1. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  1. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law that will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
  1. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  1. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
  • fairly and lawfully processed;
  • processed for limited purposes;
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • accurate and up to date;
  • not kept for longer than is necessary;
  • processed in line with your rights;
  • secure; and
  • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  1. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications.

There are specific rules on:

  • marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
  • cookies (and similar technologies);
  • keeping communications services secure; and
  • customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings.

We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.

  1. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  1. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  1. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to ico.org.uk/concerns