Britain’s information commissioner is looking at the work of Victoria-based political data firm AggregateIQ as part of an investigation into whether British digital privacy laws were broken during the Brexit referendum campaign, Global News has learned.
The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) refused to release records on their examination of AggregateIQ that Global News had requested under British access-to-information laws. The ICO cited provisions allowing it to withhold records if their release “would be likely to prejudice … the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply with the law.”
“In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received FB user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate,” Facebook said in a statement.
Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL) is a government and military contractor that is the parent of Cambridge Analytica.
Wylie has said that AggregateIQ received payment from a pro-Brexit campaign group before the 2016 referendum when Britain voted to quit the European Union.
AggregateIQ offers campaigns a way of marketing themselves to tailored groups of voters using social media. Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica employee turned whistleblower, has said the two companies are closely connected, a claim AggregateIQ denies on their Web site. Wylie alleges that Cambridge Analytica used data on 50 million Facebook users to target voters during the 2016 U.S. election.
Despite being 7,600 kilometers away from the action, AggregateIQ had a major role in the “Leave” campaign in the U.K.’s Brexit referendum in 2016, in which British voters narrowly decided to leave the European Union.
In April through June of 2016, four Leave-side people and organizations paid a total of £3.5 million (C$6.3 million) to the Victoria company, British campaign donation records show.
But despite that endorsement and all that money, it’s not well-understood in any level of detail what AggregateIQ did for its pro-Brexit clients, other than precisely directing digital ads to users of platforms like Google and Facebook.