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Ex-Cabinet minister suggests tech bosses should be jailed for data misuse amid Cambridge Analytica scandal

Emilio Casalicchio

2 min read

A former Cabinet minister has suggested bosses who abuse online data for political or financial gain should be thrown in jail in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Dominic Grieve said in the past firms had been hit with "relatively minor" fines and it was now time to get tougher.

His comments came after Cambridge Analytica - which is credited with helping Donald Trump become president - was accused of illegally harvesting data from 50 million Facebook profiles ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.

The Information Commissioner is seeking a warrant to search the British firm's servers and databases after the company failed to hand them over by a strict deadline.

Mr Grieve, who was Attorney General in David Cameron's government, told Radio Four's Today programme: "As one looks as the sheer extent of what is going on and the sort of allegations that are being made I do think we need to give some very serious thought to raising the penalties in relation to this, particularly in relation to the individuals involved.

"Most of these penalties are financial. In the past, quite frankly, they have been relatively minor. The Government’s new regime is designed to be much tougher but I think we do have to look carefully at this.”

Mr Grieve added: “If there is evidence that data mining is being used to try to influence outcomes of elections of elections or referendums or anything else I think that is a serious matter.

“It will start to create in the mind of the public an anxiety that in fact they are being manipulated.”

And he said the powers of the Information Commissioner should be beefed up if the watchdog though it was necessary.

His comments were echoed by Shadow Digital Minister Liam Byrne, who told the same show: “We do need to equip the sheriff with greater powers and we need to bring our election laws into the 21st century.”

In a separate investigation, Cambridge Analytica executives were filmed by Channel 4 News suggesting they could use honey traps and possibly bribery to discredit politicians across the globe and help them win elections.

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