LONDON (Reuters) - Efforts by Britain’s information watchdog to investigate Cambridge Analytica - the company at the center of a storm over its use of Facebook data - were delayed on Thursday when a judge adjourned for 24 hours its application to search the company’s head office.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) declined to comment on the reason for the delay.
“A High Court judge has adjourned the ICO’s application for a warrant relating to Cambridge Analytica until Friday,” a spokeswoman said.
ICO head Elizabeth Denham said three days ago she was seeking a warrant to access the offices of Cambridge Analytica after Britain’s Channel 4 news secretly recorded its executives boasting of their ability to sway elections.
Denham said then it would not take long for her organization to obtain the warrant.
Several Twitter users have been questioning the delay, including Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow who wrote before Thursday’s adjournment: “Surely unbelievable that the UK’s information commissioner is STILL waiting to see a judge who will grant a warrant to go in and search the premises ... by the time she gets in there how much evidence will be left?”
Cambridge Analytica said on Tuesday: “We have offered to share with the ICO all the information that it asked for and for the ICO to attend our office voluntarily, subject to our agreeing the scope of the inspection.”
Storage crates were collected from the building that houses its office on Tuesday, shortly before the company suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix.
The political consultancy improperly accessed Facebook users’ information to build profiles on millions of American voters that were later used to help elect U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016, a whistleblower said on Saturday.
Facebook’s own forensic auditors - Stroz Friedberg - were in Cambridge Analytica’s offices in central London on Monday to determine whether the firm still had the data, but left at the request of the British authorities.
The data protection regulator had already demanded access to Cambridge Analytica’s records and data - on March 7 - as part of an ongoing inquiry into how data was being used to target political messages.
The Information Commissioner can currently impose fines of up to 500,000 pounds ($700,000) but will gain the power to fine an organization up to 4 percent of its global turnover when new data protection legislation comes into force in May.
Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Costas Pitas