Whistleblower Wylie Pocketed $100,000 From Trudeau Despite Telling Collins He Had No Clients

Fans of political dramas will be thrilled by the news that they will also have a Ron Howard-produced biopic of Chris Wylie – “the young gay visionary who created Cambridge Analytica” – to look forward to following Channel 4’s Brexit drama next month. Ron’s blurb says he’s setting out to tell the “true story of Chris Wylie”, Guido thought he would give Ron a little help with piecing some more of the facts together:

As Guido detailed last month, far from turning his back on illicit data activities after leaving Cambridge Analytica, Chris Wylie was busy attempting to flog the “psychographic microtargeting” services of his own company Eunoia Technologies to all and sundry, with little success. Wylie’s snake oil had already been turned down by Donald Trump and the Remain campaign before his pitch to Dominic Cummings flopped too…

Given this litany of failed attempts to monetise his dubious data practices, Damian Collins won’t have been too surprised when Wylie told him at the DCMS Committee on 27th March this year that he hadn’t “been able to benefit” himself from using the data on other projects outside Cambridge Analytica. Not for want of trying…

“I didn’t do any contracts or any, you know, work with that data… I haven’t worked with any clients that data was used for… that data got deleted, I believe, in 2015 on my end.”

Yet Wylie was still trying to peddle his voter-targeting techniques to Cummings in January 2016, and Facebook said that Wylie didn’t certify to them that he had deleted the data until August 2016. The 2015 date is almost certainly wrong…

And just one week before his appearance at the DCMS Committee, a major story broke in Wylie’s native Canada that in 2016 Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party had awarded a C$100,000 (£58,000) contract – to Chris Wylie and Eunoia TechnologiesSomehow Carole Cadwalladr’s prize-winning investigative skills entirely missed that one…

After media pressure in Canada, Trudeau’s Liberal Party was forced to release a statement confirming that Wylie’s firm had received C$100,000 of Canadian taxpayers’ money to conduct a “pilot project” for the party’s research bureau, including “setting up social media monitoring tools” and to “design and organize several national samples of Canadians to explore responses to Government policy priorities and other issues of national importance”. Which sounds remarkably similar to the psychological voter profiling and micro-targeting techniques Wylie was trying to tout elsewhere…

  • Was Wylie being straight with Collins when he told him he hadn’t “worked with any clients” or done “any contracts” with the data?
  • Was Wylie being straight with the Canadian Parliament when he told them his work hadn’t involved any targeting of voters, despite Liberal Party insiders saying that he had been trying to push micro-targeting techniques to the party for almost a decade?
  • Was Carole completely unaware of any of this as she was busy lionising him in the British press?

In fact, in his failed pitch to Vote Leave, Wylie told Cummings: “some of us will be in Ottowa this month working on a similar project for a major Canadian political party”. Wylie’s proposal to Cummings detailed a number of a data crimes he planned to commit including for his company to retain psychographic algorithms based on Vote Leave’s data “for future commercial applications”. Did Wylie’s work for Trudeau’s party involve “similar” breaches of data protection laws?

These are serious questions for Damian Collins, the ICO and the British media to ask. By his own admission, if Wylie did any work for clients using models built using the Facebook data, even if it wasn’t directly using the data itself, he is guilty of openly misleading Parliament. At least he didn’t walk away entirely empty-handed after all his hard work obtaining the illicit data in the first place…

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Geeks Invent ‘Brexonometer’ to Measure Brits’ Brexit Frustration

A bunch of tech geeks have created a fancy-looking ‘Brexonometer’ which claims to give “moment by moment insight into how the nation is feeling about Brexit by applying advanced analytics to compute the real-time sentiment of Tweets.” The creators explain:

“All English language Tweets mentioning the word Brexit are aggregated into mini-batches of messages. We then use natural language processing technologies to compute the overall sentiment of each batch.”

Funnily enough there was a surge of activity around 9pm last night. Incredibly, the current sentiment isn’t just “aaaaaaaaargh”, it is in fact slightly positive today, at least according to the ‘Brexonometer’. Guido suspects it may be a case of ‘garbage in, garbage out’…

Damian’s Dodgy Data Discovery

Carole Cadwalladr has exclusively revealed that self-promoting DCMS Committee Chairman Damian Collins made the extraordinary move to seize documents from the founder of a small US software company called ‘Six4Three’ over the weekend – in time for Carole’s deadline. The founder Ted Kramer, who is currently suing Facebook in a messy lawsuit in California, just happened to be in the UK on a ‘business trip’. The DCMS Committee apparently magically knew about this brief trip, the hotel the founder was staying at, and that he had the documents with him. This remarkably detailed information led to Collins initiating a parliamentary procedure to seize the documents, complete with the theatrical sending of a serjeant at arms to the founder’s hotel with a “final warning” and an escort to parliament. It all seems a little choreographed…

It appears to Guido that this entire theatrical codswallop story is a stitch up. The ‘Six4Three’ founder seems to have flown to the UK specifically to have the documents seized – which Facebook wants to keep confidential. NBC’s tech investigations editor Olivia Solon has suggested that if that weren’t the case you would “be seeing statements from his lawyers decrying jurisdictional overreach / worrying misuse of power.” Why did ‘Six4Three’ founder have the documents with him, under seal, on his trip to the UK?

If Guido was the sort of journalist who made unsubstantiated speculative allegations that later had to be corrected he’d wonder, without any firm evidential basis, if Damian is part of a charade to get these documents out in the open and Carole Cadwalldr knows this because she has been in touch with Ted Kramer, the owner of Six4Three. He is suing Facebook, claiming that “Facebook itself is the biggest violator of data misuse in the history of the software industry”. On this point he is probably correct.

Should Damian be co-operating with an attempt to subvert United States due legal process? Isn’t Collins’ committee’s whole shtick meant to be sticking up for due process and the rule of law?

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.[…] Read the rest

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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.”

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