British data watchdog has ordered Cambridge Analytica to turn over all the information it collected on an American voter, including any personal data from Facebook.
The firm, founded by key Trump supporters Robert and Rebekah Mercer and overseen by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is closing shop following accusations that it helped itself to personal data allegedly collected by subterfuge from Facebook users for targeted political messages.
The firm announced Wednesday it’s declaring bankruptcy and shutting down operations, but the U.K. information commissioner warned that ignoring the order would be considered a “criminal offense,” The Guardian reported. It has 30 days to provide the information or face an “unlimited fine.”
“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,” Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wrote. “This should solve a lot of mysteries about what the company did with data and where it got it from,” he told The Guardian.
A whistleblower revealed in March that a University of Cambridge psychology professor gathered enormous amounts of personal information from Facebook users under the guise of personality tests in a Facebook app. The information was then sold to Cambridge Analytica beginning in 2015. Data may have been harvested from as many as 240 million Facebook accounts.
Facebook told Cambridge Analytica to destroy the information, but it never followed up, according to whistleblower Christopher Wylie. Facebook said in a statement in mid-March that it had only discovered days earlier that not all harvested data had been destroyed by Cambridge Analytica. It then suspended the firm from its social media platform.