By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
Prime Minister Theresa May has said she expects “full compliance” from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica in an investigation over the recent allegations regarding data harvesting methods and influencing of democratic processes in various countries.
“The allegations are clearly very concerning, it is absolutely right they should be properly investigated,” May told the House of Commons on Wednesday during a weekly question session.
She spoke of the allegations upon a question by the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford.
“Does the prime minister agree that subverting the democratic political process in any country is totally unacceptable?” Blackford asked before pointing out that the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, Strategic Communications Laboratory (SCL), had links with May’s Conservative Party.
The SCL “has been run by a chairman of Oxford Conservative Association, its founding chairman was a former Conservative MP, a director appears to have donated over £700,000 [$984,000] to the Tory party, a former Conservative party chairman is a shareholder,” Blackford said.
May said the government had no links to Cambridge Analytica or the SCL.
“As far as I’m aware, the government has no current contracts with CA or with the SCL group ... The allegations are clearly very concerning, it is absolutely right they should be properly investigated,” she said.
“I would expect Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and all organisations involved to comply fully with the investigation taking place,” she added.
Cambridge Analytica is at the center of data breach allegations since a former employee, Christopher Wylie, went public to tell how he built a software to influence voters’ choices.
British daily The Observer newspaper and The New York Times reported on Saturday that the company used personal information of 50 million Facebook users to influence the U.S. presidential election in 2016 on behalf of Donald Trump.
The controversial data analytics firm said Tuesday it suspended its CEO Alexander Nix and launched an independent investigation surrounding his role in a mass data breach revealed earlier this week.
An investigation by Channel 4 News revealed how the now-sacked Cambridge Analytica CEO claimed the firm ran "all" of U.S. President Donald Trump’s digital campaign and may have broken election law.
“The Board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect, pending a full, independent investigation,” the firm said in a press release shortly after the Channel 4 report Tuesday.
“In the view of the board, Mr. Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation,” it added.
British broadcaster Channel 4 on Monday aired a documentary in which undercover reporters and journalists recorded Nix and other Cambridge Analytica employees describe and explain in detail how they were able to harvest more than 50 million Facebook profiles and access private information to influence political opinion and elections.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has also been requested by lawmakers in the U.S. and U.K. to testify before investigative committees regarding Facebook’s role in the data breach.
Zuckerberg has yet to respond, and Facebook’s shares have plummeted since the revelations.
Facebook shares down
Meanwhile, Facebook’s stock has been hit hard since reports last Saturday suggested Cambridge Analytica acquired the private information of approximately 50 million Facebook users without their permission and used that data in U.S. elections in 2014 and 2016 as well as during Brexit.
After closing at $185.09 per share Friday, the social media giant’s shares ended Tuesday at $168.15, down 9.1 percent.
The U.K.’s information commissioner said Tuesday she will seek a warrant to search the offices of the London headquarters of Cambridge Analytica.
“We need to look at the databases and servers, and understand how the data was processed or deleted,” Elizabeth Denham said.
The Cambridge Analytica said in a statement they would cooperate with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
“We remain committed to helping the ICO and all other concerned organisations in their investigations and audits,” it said.