The Information Commissioner’s agonising wait for a warrant to raid Cambridge Analytica’s London HQ has been prolonged until Friday at the earliest.
Elizabeth Denham said on Monday that she was seeking the legal power to compel the controversial data firm to hand over evidence as part of a probe into alleged unauthorised use of data from up to 50m Facebook profiles.
But on Thursday, a High Court judge adjourned the application to search the New Oxford Street building until tomorrow, four full days after the bid was announced.
Denham’s office, the ICO, sought the warrant on Monday night after the Observer and Channel 4 News revealed Cambridge Analytica had harvested data gleaned from Facebook users via a seemingly innocuous quiz app.
But as days went by and the scandal grew, the ICO repeatedly said it had “no update” on its legal quest for a warrant.
On Thursday morning a spokesperson said: “A High Court judge has adjourned the ICO’s application for a warrant relating to Cambridge Analytica until Friday.
“The ICO will be in court to continue to pursue the warrant to obtain access to data and information to take forward our investigation.”
On Tuesday, HuffPost UK witnessed 10 plastic crates filled with folders and documents being removed from Cambridge Analytica’s London HQ building, which includes the offices of other firms.
The crates’ provenance was unknown, and when asked if they came from Cambridge’s offices a van driver said: “No comment.”
Prime Minister Theresa May this week hinted at bolstering the ICO’s powers, telling the House of Commons: “I am pleased to say of course that the [Data Protection B]ill we are bringing forward... will give the ICO tougher powers to ensure organisations comply.
“I would hope it would be supported by a lot of members from across this house.”
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson, told HuffPost: “It is unacceptable that there has been such a delay for the Information Commissioner to be granted access to the Cambridge Analytica offices.
“By the time [Denham] is granted access, everyone and their dog will be aware of the warrant request. Evidence may well be destroyed in the meantime.
“This farcical display has highlighted the need for major reform. The process needs streamlining.
“The Information Commissioner must be given the resources she needs to do her job effectively. She must also be given increased legal powers, including the power to force disclosure of requested information.”