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ICO on Cambridge Analytica closure: “we will pursue individuals and monitor any successor companies”

The closure of Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL Elections will not stop the information commissioner from investigating the firm and its directors, a spokesperson for the regulator has said.

The controversial consultancy stands accused of commissioning an academic to harvest tens of millions of Facebook users’ data without their permission, and is at the centre of an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office into the way data is used in political campaigns.

An ICO spokesperson said the regulator would continue to “pursue individuals and directors” and that it would “monitor closely any successor companies using our powers to audit and inspect, to ensure the public is safeguarded”.

In March, Business Insider reported that individuals linked to SCL Group, the owner of SCL Elections, had formed a new business called Emerdata. Alexander Tayler, the last CEO of Cambridge Analytica, is among the company’s directors, according to Companies House filings. The New York Times reported that the new firm could be used as part of a rebranding exercise.

In a statement announcing its closure, Cambridge Analytica said a “siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers”.

MP Damian Collins, the chair of the parliamentary inquiry into fake news, said the companies could not be allowed to delete their data history by closing: “The investigations into their work are vital.”

The digital and culture secretary, Matt Hancock, told NS Tech in March that the government was considering giving the ICO greater powers in light of the scandal, after the regulator had been forced to wait four days to secure a court warrant to raid the company’s offices.

“We are talking to the Information Commissioner about what extra powers she thinks are needed in light of this investigation,” he said. “The Data Protection Bill already before parliament strengthens her powers considerably. The question is whether we need to go further than even that.”