Take Back Our Voter Data

by David Carroll

Take Back Our Voter Data

by David Carroll
David Carroll
Case Owner
Professor David Carroll from Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York was the first US citizen to receive and publish his Cambridge Analytica voter file from the 2016 election.
on 26th October 2017
pledged of £100,000 stretch target from 1175 pledges
David Carroll
Case Owner
Professor David Carroll from Parsons School of Design at The New School in New York was the first US citizen to receive and publish his Cambridge Analytica voter file from the 2016 election.

Latest: April 18, 2019

Judge rules against my liquidiation challenge

I have bad news. It's terribly disappointing that after a series of important legal victories as we watched the Information Commissioner criminally convict Cambridge Analytica for ignoring an ord…

Read more

We are concerned that our data has been and is still being used to manipulate our democracy, without our knowledge or consent. We intend to find out how this happened, what was done with our data and hold the companies to account. 

Who am I 

I am David Carroll, a professor at The New School in New York. I, and a group of concerned citizens from around the world, are taking a case to try to get our personal data back from the company, SCL Group Ltd, the parent of Cambridge Analytica – and ensure that companies are held to account for using our information. I am bringing this case on behalf of the group and all concerned citizens. I encourage everyone to request their data and join the fight by donating to the campaign. 

The case

It appears that companies like Cambridge Analytica hold extremely personal data on the vast majority of registered voters in the US, as well as voters in every country where they operate. To paraphrase their own advertising, they know you better than you know yourself. And that knowledge can be used in ways we are only beginning to understand. The power of the use of political information cannot be overstated – and recent reports suggest that such data was used to influence political movements such as the Trump election and allegedly the Brexit vote. 

When I requested my data from Cambridge Analytica, and received a reply from their registered data controller, SCL Elections in London, I discovered the depth of accurate information they held about me, including modelling my political beliefs, was profound. Even then, we still do not know the full extent of that data, where it came from or who it was given to.

The way that data is used by such companies is opaque, and can influence every part of your life and even the way the world moves around you.  From what ads you see, to your credit reporting profile and from the way elections work to the foreign entities that can exploit your most sensitive personal data.

However, in some countries, like the UK, there are rules that protect the use of your data. That’s why we are going to the UK courts.  

We are fighting for a legal principle that, in an age of unlimited access to personal data, is fundamental: companies cannot use your data in any way they see fit. Your data is yours and you have a right to control its use.

Our fight involves three strategies and we are raising funds to:

  • Help individuals assert their rights by requesting their data from SCL;
  • Support the investigation being carried out by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office by preparing and referring individuals’ submissions; potentially support investigations being carried out in the US congress on election interference; 
  • Raising a legal defence fund. We need to protect individuals from risks of “adverse costs”. In the UK, if we are unsuccessful in the litigation, we have to pay the other side’s legal costs and we need to set up a sizable fund to ensure we are protected against such a large adversary.

Join us
You can be part of history. Donating is the most practical thing you can do to fight back.  We need to use the law to speak truth to power, and to create concrete legal frameworks so that our information is not quite so easily manipulated.

What we have done

With the help of a data scientist, Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a group of us requested our data from the company. That data was as shocking as it was illuminating. We encourage everyone interested to do the same; request your data and know what was held and said about you. 

With the help of our lawyers, we then wrote to the companies, asking them to delete our information and provide further disclosure. The responses were inadequate. We were left with little option than to go to Court. 

The legal team

We have hired one of the UK’s leading lawyers on data protection, Ravi Naik, to be our solicitor on the case. We have put together a team of the leading barristers in the country to support the claim, who together will present our case to Court. 

We believe that our prospects of success are good. 

Costs of the case

The case will take place in stages. Firstly, we will issue the claim in Court and lay out our “particulars of claim”. We will then serve this claim on the companies. 

We are looking to raise money to protect the Claimants from any “adverse” costs. We are seeking to raise £25,000 for this stage. If we hit this target, then we will seek to raise further funds as the case progresses. 

It is hard to know the exact costs involved as cases tend to change as the matter develops. We have therefore set a “stretch” target to help cover all eventualities and really take the fight to the companies. We are hoping to hit our stretch target to be in the best position possible moving forwards.

We have opted into CrowdJustice’s “tipping” option, so you can cover their fees on top of the donation you make.

Our legal team have been working for free to date. Most of the costs will be used as a defence fund, with a small amount allocated to our legal team, who have agreed to act on heavily discounted rates – and in fact, the majority of their work will be for free. 

Please help support our fight to take back control of our data; donate and support the campaign.

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Update 5

David Carroll

April 18, 2019

Judge rules against my liquidiation challenge

I have bad news. It's terribly disappointing that after a series of important legal victories as we watched the Information Commissioner criminally convict Cambridge Analytica for ignoring an order to respond and disclose, we lost the final battle in the quest to find answers to the most basic questions about Cambridge Analytica. The news is official as of today with the release of the High Court's decision to approve the liquidation, against our well-evidenced and and well-argued challenge.

We chased truth all the way to the bitter end, culminating with a hearing against the administrators tasked with liquidating the companies. We accused them of bias against the class of creditors with data claims, those of us who performed Subject Access Requests on behalf of our electorates. The judge decided that while there was bias against those aggrieved by alleged data abuse, it was not enough to put the companies into the state receivership as we had hoped. 

We are troubled by the way this may diminish the public's confidence in the insolvency process. It is so concerning that companies can exploit the process to evade authorities and escape accountability. The judgement seems to show a strong bias against what could be described as a new category of data creditors. It even attempts to discredit our assertion of data rights as some kind of political campaign, rather than acknowledge the unavoidably political quality of a political technology firm found to have politically profiled American voters unlawfully in the UK. Instead, the judge insisted on treating Cambridge Analytica like a normal company, even though it has always been anything but normal.

I need your help now more than ever. Please pledge and pass on the good word. I took on the risk in the public interest and now it's time for the public to pitch in and protect me from the adverse costs that will be determined in May.

If there is any hope for an appeal, I would need tremendous generosity from the public far beyond levels we have seen when I fundraised in October 2017.

Read the judgement unsealed on April 17

Read coverage of the March 18 Insolvency Challenge hearing

Read coverage of the January 9 ICO Criminal Prosecution

Currency Conversion Tips

Fellow Americans may find pledging in British Pounds an obstacle but it is important to fund raise in the currency of the jurisdiction. Here are some quick conversions (as of today) to make it easier to decide on what pledge amount is right for you. If you have a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees, be sure to use it when you make your pledge. Every bit counts and matters!

$10 = £7.67

$25 = £19.17

$50 = £38.33

$100 =  £76.67

$500 = £383.33

Update 4

David Carroll

March 16, 2018

We filed and served!

I'm thrilled to report that today we filed a claim with the courts and served the Defendants in the UK. I need to thank all my backers who have gotten us this far. It's an important step towards asserting our data rights as a fundamental civil rights issue.

A filing document was posted by Mother Jones. There's more to share. There's more to come. I'd like to thank our legal team, newly announced today:

I'd also like to thank our colleague Professor David Golumbia of Virginia Commonwealth University for stepping up to the cause and providing his own data for analysis by our experts, Professor Phil Howard from Oxford Internet Institute and Dr. David Stillwell from University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre. And of course, thanks to Dr. Paul-Olivier Dehayhe for support on making Subject Access Requests, the action that we took a year ago, and got us to today.

Please stay tuned. Please spread the word and help us find more backers to support the cause to #TakeBackOurVoterData

Here we go,

Update 3

David Carroll

Oct. 26, 2017

We're so close. Help us get to our goal.

Quite a day. The revelations related to Cambridge Analytica and Wikileaks is a stunning new development. Our legal challenge over the company's data protection law compliance becomes more important with each passing day.

But we only a few days to go before our funding deadline. We need your help for the final push!

You have been with us from the start. Thanks to your generosity we're incredibly close to reaching our initial target. Remember our initial target is all or nothing - so unless we get to £25,000 we don't get anything. You can help take us over the top. 

I need you to do 3 really quick things: 

1) Please SHARE the case page link on your social media and let people know what's at stake

2) Can you email 10 friends or family with the link?

3) Could you contribute another £5? If everyone who has already contributed was able to give another £5 we would meet our target right away. Anything you can give would be enormously helpful. 

Remember to include the case page link: https://crowdjustice.com/case/scl/

Thanks again so much for your support. Please do share the case page link - it really will take just two minutes and make all the difference. 


Update 2

David Carroll

Oct. 18, 2017

We've raised our first £20,000 thanks to you.

A lot has happened since our last update. We've since doubled our funding. Our backers are amazing. News headlines continue to validate our purpose. 

  • The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has requested documents and cooperation from Cambridge Analytica. DailyBeast
  • Experimental code discovered by researcher demonstrates how Cambridge Analytica may have been hypertargeting on Instagram during the Brexit referendum campaign. BI
  • Cambridge Analytica attempts to dismiss our effort in its official response when I appeared on SKY News. Twitter

We need your help to hit £25,000 and reach our goal of funding the next step in our challenge of Cambridge Analytica in UK court over its Data Protection Act compliance.

We need more backers to join us in support of this important case. Your pledges help us find a way to opt-out of Cambridge Analytica, repatriate our data, and demand real answers to legitimate questions, in court, before a judge, with an incredible legal team, fighting for our civil rights.

We need you to back us British pounds because the registered data controller for Cambridge Analytica is a company called SCL Elections Ltd., registered with the Information Commissioner's Office in the United Kingdom. 

Let's get our data back.

Update 1

David Carroll

Oct. 4, 2017

We've raised our first £15,000 thanks to you.

Thank you to all the early backers! We're making this happen.

Now that we've collected our first £15,000, let's further clarify the purpose of our crowdfunding.

How will the crowd-funded money be used?

We are raising money primarily to protect the Claimants from adverse costs if we lose. In other words, the people bringing forth this challenge are doing so at their own personal risk. The crowdfunding protects them from the liability of losing in British courts, where claimants are liable for Defendant's legal costs if we lose.

CrowdJustice holds our funding until we need it. If we win, donations of over £1,000 are returned to the donor and otherwise donations are given to charity. 

Our solicitors are working on a “contingency” basis (or a CFA as they call it) and will be moving forward on that basis. The main goal of the funding is to cover for adverse costs of the Defendant in the event that we are unsuccessful. 

Are donations private and/or anonymous?

We don't have access to the identities of our backers. In that sense, your pledges are anonymized to us (but not to CrowdJustice and their payment processors, subject to their privacy policies). We can only see the first names provided publicly at pledge time. We will keep communicating with our beloved backers through CrowdJustice emails. 

How are things going?

We're making exciting progress getting the word out, gaining new pledges toward our goals. The Observer/Guardian article and sharing on Twitter are both generating a high conversion rate for our campaign. However, we have not yet tapped the potential of Facebook to promote our case, but in some ways, that's not a surprise given all the headlines lately.

Please help us get the campaign circulating among your friends and family on Facebook. Email 5 friends and ask them to pledge or match you, if you haven't already. 

Why do we pay in British pounds?

Our data is in the United Kingdom so we raise and fund in the local currency. I know. It's wild. Some US credit cards waive international exchange charges.

Please reassure any reluctant friends that their pledges are secure and protect the people taking on the risks for the cause. 

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