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UK seeks warrant to access Cambridge Analytica servers over Facebook data misuse

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UK seeks warrant to access Cambridge Analytica servers over Facebook data misuse

British privacy regulators are seeking a warrant to examine Cambridge Analytica LLC's servers after reports that the political data analytics firm may have improperly gained access to personal data of 50 million Facebook Inc. users.

U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham told U.K.'s Channel 4 that she will apply for a court warrant after Cambridge Analytica missed a March 19 deadline to enable access to the firm's databases and servers.

In a separate statement, Denham said her office's "complex and far-reaching" investigation will seek to bring about "a full understanding of the facts, data flows and data uses," including how Cambridge Analytica may have used the personal data for political campaigns.

Denham's office requested auditors from Stroz Friedberg to stand down from their separate audit of Cambridge Analytica's systems, Facebook said. The social networking giant has tapped the digital forensics firm for the supposed task.

Facebook added that it asked Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies and University of Cambridge Professor Aleksandr Kogan to submit to audits. Kogan has agreed verbally, while Wylie has so far declined.

The company recently suspended the accounts of Wylie as well as those of Cambridge Analytica and its parent, British company Strategic Communication Laboratories, for violating the platform's personal data policies. The move came after Facebook learned that not all user data illegitimately passed on by Kogan to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Wylie had been destroyed after the violation was discovered in 2015.

The social media company discovered in 2015 that Kogan transferred data, which was generated from an app using a Facebook login, to SCL/Cambridge Analytica and Wylie. The information was passed on via Kogan's data collection firm Global Science Research, according to The Observer.

The New York Times also reported that a data breach at Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to acquire the private information of more than 50 million people, which reportedly helped in the 2016 election campaign of U.S. President Donald Trump. Facebook responded by updating its statement, saying "the claim that this is a data breach is completely false."

Cambridge Analytica has denied the reports, saying it did not use the Facebook data as part of the services it provided to Trump's presidential campaign.

Lawmaker Damian Collins, chair of the digital, culture, media and sport committee at the U.K. House of Commons, said he will ask Facebook founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to give evidence before the committee as part of its inquiry into the issue.

"Facebook knew about this, and the involvement of Cambridge Analytica with it, and deliberately avoided answering straight questions from the Committee about it. It is not acceptable that they have previously sent witnesses who seek to avoid asking difficult questions by claiming not to know the answers," Collins said.

The parliamentarian added that he will contact Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix to explain his comments in an earlier hearing. He said Nix "deliberately" misled the committee when the latter denied his company had not received any information from Global Science Research.

Meanwhile, Facebook will hold an emergency meeting for its employees March 20 to discuss Cambridge Analytica's alleged mishandling of personal data from the platform, The Verge reported, citing an internal calendar invitation.