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Tuesday, 20 March 2018 08:36

UK warrant sought to raid controversial data firm's servers Featured

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Britain's information commissioner Elizabeth Denham will seek a warrant to examine the databases and servers used by data analytics company Cambridge Analytica, the firm that is alleged to have used data of more than 50 million Facebook subscribers for targeting voters in the US presidential election.

Facebook sent a digital forensics team from Stroz Friedberg to audit the Cambridge Analytica data but asked them to hold off once it learned of Denham's intentions.

Denham had demanded access to the company's servers by 6pm UK time on Monday (5am AEDT Tuesday) but was reported by the BBC as saying that she would now seek a warrant.

"I'm not accepting their response so therefore I'll be applying to the court for a warrant," she said.

"We need to get in there, we need to look at the databases, we need to look at the servers and understand how data was processed or deleted by Cambridge Analytica."

The allegations about Cambridge Analytica were made by a former employee, Christopher Wylie, and reported by London's The Observer and The New York Times over the weekend.

The data was collected in 2014 by Aleksandr Kogan, a researcher, using an app that requested people to take a personality test for academic research.

About 270,000 people took the test; its creator, Aleksandr Kogan, called the app he was using “a very standard vanilla Facebook app".

Given the terms of service of the app and the existing Facebook API, the app also collected the data of friends of those who responded.

Kogan later passed on the data to data research firm Cambridge Analytica, which worked for President Donald Trump’s election team. The newspaper reports said what was handed over was information about more than 50 million people.

On Monday, Britain's Channel 4 News carried a report of an undercover operation by one of its own staff who met top executives of Cambridge Analytica, pretending to be someone who wanted to throw mud at a political rival.

Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix was filmed, outlining how this could be effected by the company or its associates, including companies from Israel.

Nix told the BBC that the report was a "misrepresentation of the facts" and that his company had been "deliberately entrapped".

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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