Information Commissioner Crushes Carole’s Conspiracies

Guido readers will be well-versed in Carole Cadwalladr’s various conspiracy theories about how a secret nexus of data companies conspired to rig the Brexit vote. As well as the corrections that would inevitably follow her front page ‘revelations’, buried on page 50 of the next week’s Observer…

In an inconvenient twist for the Orwell Prize-winning journalist, the report out today from the Information Commissioner’s Office has crushed most of her central claims. Terrible when a good story gets undermined by basic facts…

Carole claimed that Leave.EU was working with Cambridge Analytica. The ICO found that there was “no evidence of a working relationship between Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU” beyond “preliminary discussions”:

“[B]oth parties stated that only preliminary discussions took place, and the relationship did not move forward when Leave.EU failed to attain the designation as the official Leave campaign… Based on our enquiries, testimony and interviews, we conclude that this is indeed the case – there is no evidence of a working relationship between CA and Leave.EU proceeding beyond this initial phase.”

Carole claimed that the Canadian data firm, AIQ, who worked with Vote Leave, was effectively the “Canadian branch” of Cambridge Analytica, although she has since retracted this claim. The ICO scotched this one too:

“Whilst there was clearly a close working relationship between the entities and several staff members were known to each other, we have no evidence that AIQ has been anything other than a separate legal entity… ultimately we have concluded that this was a contractual relationship.”

Carole’s whole conspiracy centered around the notion that AIQ and Cambridge Analytica had shared data in the referendum. In fact the ICO found no evidence that either Cambridge Analytica or its parent company SCL Elections were involved in any data analytics work on the referendum at all:

“We found no evidence of unlawful activity in relation to the personal data of UK citizens and AIQ’s work with SCLE. To date, we have no evidence that SCLE and CA were involved in any data analytics work with the EU Referendum campaigns.”

Meanwhile Vote Leave was given a clean bill of health for its data work with AIQ:

“We know that Vote Leave had a commercial relationship with AIQ. In respect of that work, we have not obtained any evidence that Vote Leave transferred or processed personal data outside the UK unlawfully – or that it processed personal data without the consent of data subjects… Our further investigations into AIQ revealed no evidence of the unlawful processing of UK personal data.”

After massively bigging up the report yesterday, Carole has been unusually quiet on Twitter since it landed, mainly complaining that no-one was paying attention to the “MUCH bigger story” (was it being “deliberately buried”?) and even accusing Buzzfeed – of all places – of doing Arron Banks’ “dirty work”Maybe she’s still feeling a little bit sore after *that* article

Remainers were hoping for an explosive report to blow up Brexit. Instead it revealed that it’s the Remain campaign and the Lib Dems who are under investigation for potential data breaches, while Arron Banks’ looming fines are almost entirely for using his Leave.EU mailing list to flog insurance after the referendum, not for activities during the campaign. The only thing the report blew up was Carole’s conspiracy. She was after all, as Isabel Oakeshott famously said, “chasing unicorns”…

People’s Vote Under ICO Investigation

Guido can shed more light on the Information Commissioner’s Office investigation into the use of data by campaigns during the EU referendum.

The report reveals that the ICO is “still looking” into breaches of data by BSE that may require further action. After the referendum, BSE became Open Britain, and this summer re-branded again as the ironically named People’s Vote campaign. All while the investigation was ongoing…

The campaign’s re-branding leads to priceless tweets, but it doesn’t get them out of the serious ICO investigation.

The People’s Vote campaign is still under investigation by the ICO for potential serious breaches of data privacy.

“‘During the course of our investigation, we obtained information that the Liberal Democrats had sold the personal data of its party members to BSiE for approximately £100,000.”

“In June and July 2018, we served information notices on Open Britain, the successor organisation to BSiE, and the Liberal Democrats, under the DPA1998, to investigate these issues.”

“We are still looking at how the Remain side of the referendum campaign handled personal data, including the electoral roll, and will be considering whether there are any breaches of data protection or electoral law requiring further action.”

The ICO has placed an enforcement notice against AIQ handling any UK data in the course of its investigation. Shouldn’t the ICO – in the same way – suspend the People’s Vote campaign from using any UK data while they investigate and determine the source of the data?

UPDATE: BSE responds: “This assertion is entirely untrue. Britain Stronger in Europe did not receive, or pay for, Liberal Democrat members’ personal data at any point.”

Axe the Reading Tax!

It’s Time to End Prejudice Against Digital Readers.

The UK Government has the opportunity to overturn an illogical and manifestly unfair tax system that discriminates against digital readers.

Historically EU legislation has prohibited zero-rating VAT on ebooks and epublications. So while the UK’s VAT regime has rightly exempted printed books, magazines and newspapers from VAT since the 1970s, a 20% tax on reading and on knowledge in the digital world has continued to be levied at Brussels’ behest.

This backward looking tax affects us all – not least the public institutions who end up paying millions of pounds in VAT to read digital publications and those in our society who rely on ebooks to make reading more accessible.

But now is the time to right this wrong. Common sense has prevailed and the EU has finally agreed that Member States will have the flexibility to set their own VAT rates on ebooks and epublications. As a nation of best-selling authors and voracious readers, it’s only appropriate that we take the lead.  The UK risks falling behind the rest of Europe if we don’t act fast.

Do you agree that the Chancellor should axe the reading tax in his upcoming Budget? Make sure your MP knows about it and sign our petition here.  

This is a sponsored post by The Publishers Association.

Nick Clegg’s New Job Lobbying the European Commission

It seems like a bit of a come down for a former Deputy PM to become Facebook’s spin-doctor and Brussels lobbyist – however it is dressed up that is what he is being hired to do. No doubt the fee and stock option millions will cushion the humilation.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Mr Clegg said: “Throughout my public life I have relished grappling with difficult and controversial issues and seeking to communicate them to others. I hope to use some of those skills in my new role.” The former MP for Sheffield Hallam is being hired for his connections at the European Commission. He was a former EC trade negotiator and member of the European Parliament. Facebook is the prime legal target of the European Commission for privacy breaches and a myriad of other regulatory issues. Not the least of which is taxing the internet giant.

On which subject Clegg previously said “I actually find the messianic Californian new-worldy-touchy-feely culture of Facebook a little grating. Nor am I sure that companies such as Facebook really pay all the tax they could.” Guido’s sure Mark Zuckerberg will be pleased to hear what his new hire thinks now…

It also signals that he thinks the fight against Brexit is over. Now he’s in Brussels for one thing only. The money, reportedly £1 million-a-year…

 

House of Combots: MPs Interview Robot

MPs were subjected a technological treat this morning as a 4-foot tall robot named Pepper gave evidence to the Education Select Committee, arguably with more personality than many Parliamentarians. While the questions may have been more programmatic than usual, at least Pepper didn’t bot-tle out of answering them…

Tory App R.I.P.

This afternoon an error message popped up on the screens of many delegates who downloaded the Tory conference app to their phones.

After the data leak many will say “goodbye and good riddance”…

Brandon: Tories Fully Investigating Data Breach

 

Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis responds to the major data breach yesterday on the party’s conference app. Not what the Tories wanted to be talking about this morning…

Security Blunder Leaks Conference Delegates Data

The Tory Conference app has been hacked and people have got hold of Boris Johnson’s mobile number, prank called the Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson, changed Michael Gove’s profile pic to Rupert Murdoch… well you get the idea.  When Guido says “hacked” he actually means you just had to enter Boris’s email address and you were logged in as him. Which is exactly what Guardian columnist Dawn Foster did when she logged on as Boris Johnson. She then – illegally in a breach of data protection laws – tweeted out the exploit to all and sundry leading to a massive data breach being opened for almost an hour before CCHQ managed to shut down all the personalisation functions. The app store says the app was heavily downloaded today…

Guido is a bit late to reporting this because for the last 3 hours he has being trying to discover what personal data of his is out in the public domain. Under the GDPR law it is an obligation for organisations to inform individuals without undue delay. They must also

  • ensure you have robust breach detection, investigation and internal reporting procedures in place. This will facilitate decision-making about whether or not you need to notify the relevant supervisory authority and the affected individuals.
  • keep a record of any personal data breaches, regardless of whether you are required to notify.

Guido contacted the CCHQ press office trying to find out what was going on after he saw his conference pass photo was out there on the internet and he got a prank text message. At the time of going to pixel attendees have not even been informed of the data breach unless they logged in before the personalisation functionality was removed. If like Guido you had no idea about the existence of the app never mind that your data was on it, you will not have been informed. Journalists, MPs, ministers, diplomats and regular delegates who have been compromised will not know unless they are told by CCHQ – as required by law. So that warning needs to go out, now.

EU Votes to Ban Memes

The EU Parliament voted by a margin of 2:1 today to adopt Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive, a stringent copyright restriction that has the potential to ban memes. MEPs were made to vote again after having voted to reject it in July. Sound familiar?

Article 13 requires web companies to automatically filter out any copyrighted content, from songs to videos to even pictures. Say goodbye to your favourite gifs, movie stills, or other potentially copyrighted material on any social network. 

Article 11 of the directive also is also deeply troubling for web freedom, in requiring internet companies to pay news outlets for hosting their content, potentially even just previews of articles.

This is just the latest anti-tech anti-consumer attack from the EU after they ludicrously fined Google billions of Euro’s earlier this year, and the year before.

This vote is not the end of the process, however. Every amendment passed today will have to go through behind-closed-doors negotiations between EU bureaucrats and EU member states. We can expect another vote on this ludicrous legislation in January 2019. Brexit can’t come soon enough…

Maybot to Feature at Tory Conference

The official fringe guide to Tory Party Conference has been released by CCHQ and on one eye catching event, panellists including Rob Halfon MP and “Zeno the robot” will be discussing how long it will take for Britain to have a robot for Prime Minister. Guido would gently suggest that we have had one for some time…

Iran-Linked Facebook Groups Push Pro-Corbyn Propaganda

Facebook has removed more than 284 pages and accounts with apparent links to Iran across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Cyber security firm FireEye tipped Facebook off to the accounts it says are likely to be part of an Iranian state media network and are dedicated to pushing Iranian foreign policy aims. Among these appear to be the election of Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish independence.

The pages, which had names like ‘Free Scotland 2014’ and ‘The British Left’ were followed by almost one million Facebook users. Before he became leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn took up to £20,000 in fees from the Iranian state broadcaster PressTV. Iran is Israel’s primary strategic enemy, no surprise they back Jeremy Corbyn…

 

I’m Supporting #Positive Twitter Day on Friday, August 31

On August 31 back in 2012 Sunder Katwala and Guido promoted with temporary success, a “Positive Twitter Day“. Twitter, especially the political Twittersphere, can be a horrible nasty place, what with the culture wars and political extremists generally being unpleasant. None of us are immune from it. Wouldn’t it be pleasantly calming if for just one day we all tried to be nice and civil in our tweets? The idea came originally from the invariably polite Sunder Katwala and he agrees with Guido we should try again. We sorely need to try again…

If well known Twitter curmudgeons re-tweeted the hashtag #PositiveTwitterDay and entered into the spirit of the day on Friday, August 31, it might spread a bit of civility in these polarised times. Guido for his part is determined to have civil, positive discussions today with the likes of Owen or Raheem. The power of positive tweeting…

To tweet your support just click this link #PositiveTwitterDay

The Exiling of InfoWars from Social Media

Guido is instinctively uncomfortable with censorship, even of liars. In the marketplace of ideas, good ideas should best bad ideas in free debate. That is the theory. So the exiling of Alex Jones from Facebook, Apple’s iTunes, YouTube, Vimeo, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Flickr, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn and MailChimp seems to be shutting down open debate. Twitter have now put Alex Jones in a half-way house where he is unable to tweet. That cuts off Alex Jones from most of his audience.

He’s not completely exiled from public discourse, the InfoWars apps are available to download, his website is running. His freedom of speech has not been taken away, Big Tech has just exiled him from their huge social media audiences. They are it seems to Guido making an example of him because he is the highest profile “fake news” outlet associated with Trump. The tech titans are of course completely within their rights to purge InfoWars from their platforms.

Jones says “Mass censorship of conservatives and libertarians is exploding. You’ve already seen this with the demonetization and ultimate purge of Infowars and other alternative media outlets by mega-corporations working in tangent to stifle competition.” He is right in that it really does seem that it is right-of-centre voices that are being purged disproportionately, the left argues that is because the right are disproportionately “haters”. The alt-right does revel in being provocatively confrontational. Milo being kicked off Twitter was an early sign of this reaction.

If the social media platforms are going to start discriminating about what content they will host and distribute they will become like the US TV networks, seen as partisan and thus subject to partisan heckling. The left are hard-wired to “no platform” people, banning voices they don’t like, the right are not so temperamentally inclined. This means there is a continuous lobbying from the left to silence people they don’t like; the ceaseless effort to get advertiser boycotts of the popular press, to get Nigel Farage off LBC, Owen Jones’ shrill screeching about Andrew Neil (nothing to do with his humiliation at Brillo’s hands). Does all this matter much to voters? Only at the margins, those who want Alex Jones will still be able to get Alex Jones. It increases the self-filtering effect on public discourse. As our information sources become ever more filtered we live in our own increasingly polarised social media echo chambers, that is not good for democracy.

Civil Service Headcount Still Rising in London

The Civil Service is ripe for reducing numbers, digital automation and A.I. should bring a merciful demise to a lot of paper-pushers doing mundane jobs. Think about all the processes that have become digitised; driving licences and tax filing for example. Headcount for the civil service has gone down in most places since 2010. Yet in London it has been going up for the last 5 years…

The number of civil servants in London rose by a massive 5,000 last year, in fact civil service headcount has been rising overall and median pay rose at above inflation rates. The wage bill in London alone rose by hundreds of millions. The initial Osborne/Maude onslaught on the bureaucratic fat after 13 years of Labour lethargy saw over 100,000 pen pushers find jobs in the private sector under the coalition. Now with a mangerialist government the Treasury has lost the will to bear down on the headcount. Despite the massive opportunity to reduce paperwork and civil service numbers through digitalisation of services the headcount is steadily rising. What happened to the quangocides we were promised? The state and para-statal organisations seem to be ever expanding…

Tories Jump On Love Island Bandwagon

The Tories are taking data collection lessons from Labour and Momentum – angling for Love Island fans’ contact details in return for a chance to win some snazzy water bottles. Their new casually written splash page informs fans that some of the Love Island water bottles will have a political twist, such as the message “Don’t let Corbyn mug you off”, but, if you’re lucky, others won’t. The application form is rounded off by three cringe hashtags: “#FreeMerch #FinalCountdown #DontBeAMelt”. Not sure how these are “Love Island water bottles” in any way other than they use some slightly similar looking water bottles on Love Island. Possibly a clever way of getting under 30s’ voter data. Definitely a better strategy than their old Insta page

Scottish Rockets: A Correction

Yesterday Guido suggested that siting a spaceport in Sutherland, Soctland at latitude: 58° 10′ 18.00″ N was not a good idea. Given that it will be the northernmost operational spaceport in the world and the reason spaceports are usually and preferably sited near the Equator is because that is where the Earth’s rotational speed is the highest. Rockets launched from sites near the Equator get an additional natural boost that helps save the cost of putting in extra fuel and boosters. So putting a spaceport in the North of a northern hemisphere country seemed just plain dumb.

A number of well informed readers have been in touch to dispute this, claiming that Scotland is perfect for “polar orbit launches”. Scotland is apparently a world leader in the production of handbag-sized satellites that can be launched by small rockets into Low Earth Orbit. Not altogether clear if they can be launched using an upturned pre-shaken bottle of Irn Bru as propellant, though the science is developing.

In the circumstances Guido feels we should clarify and correct the record. We have learnt two things; sometimes it pays to read more than the headline on a press release, a lot of rocket scientists read Guido…

UK Government Spaceport Sited in Worst Place

The government is getting excited, the UK is set for new space age! Launching rockets into space from Scotland, supported by the taxpayers with spaceflight grants worth over £30 million as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy. Sutherland at latitude: 58° 10′ 18.00″ N will be the northernmost operational spaceport in the world. The reason spaceports are usually and preferably sited near the Equator is because that is where the Earth’s rotational speed is the highest. Rockets launched from sites near the Equator get an additional natural boost that helps save the cost of putting in extra fuel and boosters. So putting a spaceport in the North of a northern hemisphere country is just plain dumb.

This is why government industrial strategies are a bad idea. Politicians pick projects for political reasons, “local jobs” – a for-profit enterprise would never consider a launch site at this a northern latitude. There are plenty of British territories nearer the Equator. Even Cornwall would be a better launch site…

UPDATE: Scottish Rockets: Correction

Labour Party’s Data Broker Fined £140,000 By Information Commissioner

The company from which Labour bought the personal data of more than a million individuals during the 2017 election has been fined £140,000 by the Information Commissioner for a “serious contravention” of the Data Protection Act.

The Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that Lifecycle Marketing Mother and Baby Ltd (LCMB), trading as Emma’s Diary

“…contravened DPP1 by selling the personal data of more than 1 million individuals to the Labour Party for use in the Labour Party’s general election campaign in 2AL7 without informing those individuals that it might do so, As a result, LCMB processed that personal data unfairly and without satisfying any processing condition under Schedule 2 DPA.”

The ICO found:

In May 2017, LCMB supplied 7,065,220 records to Experian Marketing Services under a data supply agreement listing the Labour Party as Experian’s client. The data supply agreement specified the delivery date for the data as 5 May 2017…

Each record comprised the following personal data: name of parent, household address, the presence of children up to 5 years old and date of birth of both mother and child. The records thus comprised the personal data of both mothers and young children. LCMB obtained that personal data via its online registration on its website and via an offline registration form.

Experian, apparently acting as an agent or processor on behalf of the Labour Party, loaded those records onto a database it hosted for the Labour Party to assist the Labour Party with a direct marketing mail campaign for the general election in 2017. LCMB told the Commissioner that the records it supplied would have helped the Labour Party send political marketing communications to people with young children about, for example, Labour’s intention to protect Sure Start centres. This was done in the constituencies for 106 parliamentary seats.

According to LCMB, the records it disclosed were deleted by Experian following the general election on B June 2017. In its letter to the Commissioner of 30 January 2018, LCMB told the Commissioner that “All data supplied agreed to be contacted via the postal channel and by 3rd party marketers and the usage of the mums’ data is fully outlined within or Privacy Policy,” It transpired, however, that this was not the case.

A Labour spokesman says the party will no longer be using the company and will be reviewing how they purchase their data. Labour they insist bought the data in good faith. There is no indication the party itself has broken the law.

“We welcome the ICO’s report. The Labour Party holds data from a variety of sources, like all UK political parties. We have neither bought nor used Emma’s Diary data since the 2017 general election and we will be reviewing our approach to acquiring data from third parties in light of the ICO’s report.”

Labour MPs have been tweeting about the ICO report on Facebook data breaches all day. Oddly none have mentioned the above finding. Sure Carole Cadwalladr will be splashing on this for the Observer this weekend…

Williamson Heckled By Siri

Gavin Williamson’s phone goes off as he speaks at the despatch box. Was he heckled by the sound of his own voice? One of his Insta stories from the Commons chamber? With the audio turned up, it turns out it was actually Siri: “I’ve found something on the web for Syrian Democratic Forces”

Perhaps soon AI will be able to replace MPs as lobby fodder. Dread to think what else Siri has overheard the Defence Secretary say…

Assange Out In July?

Not a very subtle prod to Julian Assange here from FCO minister Alan Duncan, assuring him that he will be given medical attention if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy. Interesting that this follows the Guardian reporting that he may be on the way out of the Embassy soon – Guido hears similar whispers. […] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



Tip offs: 0709 284 0531
team@Order-order.com

Quote of the Day

Dr Alexander Kogan, the app developer who originally harvested the Facebook data, said…

“I think what Cambridge Analytica has tried to sell is magic and made claims this is incredibly accurate and it tells you everything there is to tell about you. But I think the reality is it’s not that. If you sit down and you really work through the statistics and you think what does a correlation of point three means, those claims quickly fall apart. And that’s something any person with a statistical background can go and do.”

Sponsors

Guidogram: Sign up

Subscribe to the most succinct 7 days a week daily email read by thousands of Westminster insiders.
UK Tech Investment Surges 115% UK Tech Investment Surges 115%
Mogg and 13 Other MPs Write to May Declaring Transition Deal “Completely Unacceptable” Mogg and 13 Other MPs Write to May Declaring Transition Deal “Completely Unacceptable”
Corbynistas Hold Boozy Victory Party as Moderates Vacate HQ Corbynistas Hold Boozy Victory Party as Moderates Vacate HQ
Gloria De Piero’s Office Manager Still In Job Despite Defecting to Tories Gloria De Piero’s Office Manager Still In Job Despite Defecting to Tories
Fake LibDem Newspaper Lies to Richmond and Twickenham Voters Fake LibDem Newspaper Lies to Richmond and Twickenham Voters
Inside the Freer Launch Inside the Freer Launch
Labour Head of Broadcast Now Working For BBC News Labour Head of Broadcast Now Working For BBC News
Owen Jones’ Viral Fake News Owen Jones’ Viral Fake News
Hawking on Corbyn Hawking on Corbyn
Tory Website Down Tory Website Down
Labour Outsources Flashy New Website to Bernie’s US Consultants Labour Outsources Flashy New Website to Bernie’s US Consultants