British authorities left the London offices of disgraced data firm Cambridge Analytica early Saturday after spending seven hours searching for evidence as part of an investigation launched in the wake of recent revelations involving the company’s involvement in political matters including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The U.K. High Court authorized a search warrant Friday evening for Cambridge Analytica headquarters, and roughly 20 members of Britain’s data watchdog raided the office about an hour later, Reuters reported.
“The warrant to inspect the premises of Cambridge Analytica was executed at 20.00 on 23 March 2018. Our investigators left the premises at about 03.00,” the U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said early Saturday.
“We will now need to assess and consider the evidence before deciding the next steps and coming to any conclusions,” an ICO spokesperson said in a statement.
The search was “part of a larger investigation by the ICO into the use of personal data and analytics by political campaigns, parties, social media companies and other commercial actors,” the spokesperson said.
The New York Times and The Observer of London reported last Saturday that Cambridge Analytica amassed the personal information of millions of Facebook users without their permission and then used that data to deliver targeted political ads on behalf of clients including the 2016 Trump campaign, raising concerns among regulators in the U.S and abroad, including Elizabeth Denham, the U.K.’s information commissioner.
“We need to take a look at the databases, we need to look at the servers and understand how data was processed or deleted by Cambridge Analytica,” Ms. Denham told Britain’s Channel 4.
Cambridge Analytica is “committed to helping the ICO in their investigations,” the firm’s acting chief executive, Alexander Tayler, said in a statement Friday.
Cambridge Analytica deleted the Facebook data in 2015, but a third-party audit is being undertaken to ensure the information was expunge, Mr. Tayler added.
“As anyone who is familiar with our staff and work can testify, we in no way resemble the politically-motivated and unethical company that some have sought to portray,” he said in the statement.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized to users Wednesday and said that he was open to discuss the debacle before Congress.
“This was a major breach of trust, and I’m really sorry that this happened,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. “We have a basic responsibility to protect peoples’ data.”