Nearly a year after Cambridge Analytica was found to have purchased user data from Facebook and used it to influence elections, the ramifications are still being felt. On Wednesday, a British court fined the consultancy and data mining company £15,000 ($19,000) for not disclosing what information it has acquired.
Data regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) says the ruling was the first prosecution Cambridge Analytica has suffered. Since the revelations last year, the company filed for solvency and is now defunct.
Cambridge Analytica and its parent SCL Elections Ltd (also defunct) pleaded guilty to the charges brought at a Magistrates Court in Hendon, London. ICO had issued the company with an order to respond to a data request, which SCL Elections did not comply with.
“This prosecution, the first against Cambridge Analytica, is a warning that there are consequences for ignoring the law,” Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said.
Paul Bernal, a lecturer in media law at the University of East Anglia, said the case is ongoing and Facebook could come back into the spotlight: “This is just one small aspect of the bigger problems with Cambridge Analytica. It shouldn’t be seen as the end of the story, rather the end of the beginning.
“There’s much more to come out, particularly about the role of Facebook, which is ultimately much more important than that of Cambridge Analytica.”
ICO is continuing its investigation into Cambridge Analytica and is studying data and material seized during the initial investigation.
During March 2018, several media outlets published reports stating the firm had used acquired Facebook data to discredit politicians. The company was said to have “ran all of Donald Trump’s digital campaign” during the 2016 US Presidential elections.
Facebook claimed to have been deceived by SCL Elections. Still the social media giant was heavily criticized for the way it monetizes user data. 87 million Facebook users had their data compromised, many of whom were unaware their information was in the hands of Cambridge Analytica.
Despite its indirect involvement, Facebook’s reputation has been severely damaged, while $37 billion was wiped of the company’s value in the immediate aftermath of the revelations.