Information Commissioner Fines Arron Banks £120,000

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued fines totalling £120,000 to an EU referendum campaign and an insurance company for serious breaches of electronic marketing laws and is set to review how both are complying with data protection laws. However this is down from the £135,000 the ICO provisionally announced in £120,000…

The ICO investigation found that Arron Banks’ Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance were closely linked with the result that Leave.EU used Eldon Insurance customers’ details unlawfully to send almost 300,000 political marketing messages. Leave.EU has been fined £15,000 for this breach. The ICO is warning Banks that it is a criminal offence to obstruct an ICO audit or destroy information covered by it and that they plan to go into the joint Leave.EU/Eldon Insurance offices and assess staff and documentation…

They also found that Eldon Insurance carried out two unlawful direct marketing campaigns. The campaigns involved the sending of over one million emails to Leave.EU subscribers without sufficient consent. Leave.EU has been fined £45,000 and Eldon Insurance has been fined £60,000 for the breach. Worth remembering that this was non-political advertising after the referendum – meanwhile the Lib Dems are still under investigation for selling data to the Remain campaign during the referendum…

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.”

There Was No Labour Conference Bounce

Whilst Corbynistas grabbed onto a BMG poll that showed a post-conference Labour bounce, it looked like an outlier and the new poll from YouGov suggests it was very much so. This latest YouGov poll will not reflect any movement post the Tory conference. Given the general consensus was that the Tories had a neutral to positive conference we should not expect a downward move. It is a reflection on how badly Corbyn is perceived by voters that 8 years into Tory government the opposition still trails.

It is a reflection on how bad Theresa May is perceived by voters that she still trails don’t know for Prime Minister by 5 percentage points…

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.

Brexit Britain Beating Eurozone Growth

GDP growth rates for this year’s second quarter are in, and despite uncertainty, Brexit Britain bowling along with impressive and better than expected 0.4% growth, double the rate of the first quarter, despite the noticeable ramp up in continuity project fear’s dire no-deal warnings. Meanwhile the Eurozone grew on average by 0.3%, and France by just 0.2%. It’s a good job we aren’t into the Eurozone…

Twice as Many Voters Favour “No Deal” than “Chequers Deal”

A Mirror/ComRes poll out today shows that twice as many voters want to just leave the EU with no deal – effectively on the same WTO terms that the UK already trades with most of the world – rather than stay entangled with the EU with the Chequers deal. Downing Street has totally failed to sell this version of a deal to the public, whether they be leave or remain backing. There is also little chance of it surviving contact with parliament and the European Commission.

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…

YouGov: Tory Membership’s Confidence in May Plummets

In the space of just nine months the number of Leave-backing Tories with confidence in Theresa May has fallen to barely half (52%). The much fewer Remain backing Tories who have confidence is stable (78%). The number of normally loyal Leave-backing Tories who want her to go immediately has jumped from 6% to 25%. Incidentally, these figures correlate quite well with the ConservativeHome readers panel numbers. Dangerous times for Theresa…

Reader Poll: Deal or No Deal?

Poll: Tories Will Lose Votes if They Cross Brexit Red Lines

As the Chequers meeting gets underway a new poll reveals voters will turn away from the Tories if they fail to implement Brexit. According to the data from BMG Research commissioned by Change Britain:

  • 32% of voters would be less likely to vote Conservative if the Government agreed a deal which results in UK laws being subject to rulings by EU courts, compared to just 6% who would be more likely to support the party. Amongst Conservative voters, they would be more likely to change the party they back than increase their support by a ratio of more than 4:1 (46% to 10%)…
  • More than a quarter of the public would be less likely to support the Conservative Party if a deal meant that the EU retained some or substantial control of the UK’s ability to negotiate our own free trade agreements, whilst only one in ten would be more likely to back the party.
  • 27% of voters would be less likely to vote Conservative if the UK agreed to hand over billions of pounds to the EU every year as part of a free trade agreement, whilst just 9% would be more in favour of the party. Amongst Conservative voters, nearly three times as many would be less likely (35%) to support the party than more likely to vote Conservative (12%)…

Pressure is on…

41% of Labour Facebook Posts This Month About JezFest

A statistical analysis by Guido’s data bods shows that 41% of Labour’s Facebook posts this month have been about the Labour Live festival. Of the 46 posts by the Labour Party Facebook account since 1 June, 19 have been attempts to flog or give away tickets to the troubled JezFest event. That is more than three times as many as the next most talked about subject, health. Priorities…

590 Million Facebook Profiles Potentially Harvested By Guardian App

The Observer’s main revelation over the last couple of weeks has been their claim that Cambridge Analytica harvested data from 50 million Facebook accounts. They found that CA’s Aleksander Kogan collected data from 270,000 accounts and was able to access data from all their friends – on average 185 users per account – making up a total of 50 million. This does seem to add up, the most recent figures suggest the median number of Facebook friends per account is just under 200. 

The Guardian app’s privacy policy reveals they also collect data from your Facebook account, and the accounts of all your friends. This data includes “your name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Facebook account settings, as well as the user details of your Facebook friends”. You have to give permission to have your data, and that of your friends, collected if you want to use the app. This has been happening for years…

The Guardian say their app has 3.2 million active users. If those users have on average 185 Facebook friends each, that means the Guardian has potentially accessed the personal Facebook data of something like 592 million accounts. That is more than ten times the number Cambridge Analytica reportedly got hold of. This is a conservative estimate as it only includes “active” users of the Guardian app – it will have been downloaded by many more down the years. Will Damian Collins be hauling the head of data and CEO of the Guardian in front of his select committee?

Guardian App Harvests Your and Your Friends’ Facebook Data

The Guardian app harvests your personal data from your Facebook page and also the data of all of your friends – the exact same central allegation the Observer has been making against Cambridge Analytica. The privacy policy of the Guardian Facebook app makes clear if you don’t grant permission to have your and your friends’ social media data harvested you cannot use the app:

When you first access the App, for example by clicking on a link to a Guardian article from your Facebook newsfeed, you will be presented with a Facebook permissions page, which will advise you about the Facebook information you will be sharing with the App and other Facebook users. You can then decide whether or not to share your Facebook information by using the App. If you decide not to grant permission you will not be able to use the App. 

By granting permission you will be agreeing to share your Facebook user details (including your name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Facebook account settings) as well as the user details of your Facebook friends, and information about your use of the App, for example, the articles you are reading.”

The Guardian’s general privacy policy also reveals they sell your “behavioural data” to third parties:

“We may also share anonymised behavioural data with advertising partners, including commercial organisations that fund content labelled ‘Supported by’, ‘Paid content/Paid for by’ or ‘Advertiser content/from our advertisers’. This may mean that when you are on other websites, you will be shown advertising based on your behaviour on theguardian.com. We may also show you advertising on our site based on your behaviour on other sites.

They also reveal the Guardian uses data from third-party surveys – this is exactly how Aleksandr Kogan got his data for Cambridge Analytica:

“To assist us in our marketing, in addition to the data that you provide to us if you register, we may also obtain data from trusted third parties to help us understand what you might be interested in. This ‘profiling’ information is produced from a variety of sources, including publicly available data (such as the electoral roll) or from sources such as surveys and polls where you have given your permission for your data to be shared.”

Did the Guardian sell your behavioural data to Cambridge Analytica? Are they the missing piece of the jigsaw that blows this whole conspiracy wide open? Over to you, Carole…

Ex-LibDem Colleagues Raise Doubts Over “Walter Mitty” Observer Whistleblower

Former LibDem colleagues of the Observer’s data harvesting whistleblower have some interesting stories to tell. The party will not comment on staffing matters but a LibDem source says Chris Wylie was employed on a fixed-term contract which was not renewed. It is fair to say they were unimpressed with his work. One former colleague recalls: “We did not renew his contract because he is a compulsive bullsh*tter and doesn’t know what he’s talking about”. The Observer reported that their man was “working inside government with the LibDems as a political strategist”. Yet Sean Kemp, who really did work inside government with Nick Clegg, recalls:

Former LibDem spinner Ben Rathe offers this verdict:

Kemp and Rathe are two of the most trusted and respected former spinners in Westminster.

This afternoon Guido revealed how Wylie had personally offered to harvest data for Vote Leave, despite now describing the practice as “grossly unethical”. Did Carole Cadwalladr and the Observer not think to check any of this?

Observer’s Whistleblower Personally Offered to Harvest Data For Vote Leave

The whistleblower who says social media data harvesting is “grossly unethical” personally wrote a pitch to Vote Leave offering to harvest data for them during the referendum campaign, Guido can reveal. Christopher Wylie, the pink-haired former Cambridge Analytica employee turned Observer whistleblower, has spent the last week talking up his opposition to data harvesting:

“It was a grossly unethical experiment because you are playing with an entire country, the psychology of an entire country without their consent or awareness… It’s like Nixon on steroids.”

Yet after Wylie left Cambridge Analytica, he sent a pitch to Vote Leave offering to harvest data for them during the referendum. In a pitch sent to Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings in January 2016, Wylie wrote:

“We will trial social data harvesting for Vote Leave and use some of our own technology to target and acquire online data about UK voters.”

Wylie went on:

“Several online panels would be set up to target a cross section of voters… We would try to further increase the sample by accessing the social networks of the panel respondents. We would also harvest online and social data”

This is the email Wylie sent to Cummings personally offering to harvest data:

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This is Cummings’ reply rejecting Wylie’s offer:

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You can read Wylie’s rejected pitch to Vote Leave in full here. And you can read Cummings’ blog post responding to the latest Observer claims, and explaining how he thought Wylie was a “charlatan“, here.

The Observer and other Remainers seem determined to use Wylie’s claims about “unethical” data harvesting to somehow discredit the referendum result. What they haven’t mentioned is Wylie was himself offering to harvest data for Vote Leave after he left Cambridge Analytica. How does he explain that one?

Fake Hat-Gate Claims Had Social Media Reach of Over 2 Million

Fake claims that Newsnight photoshopped Jeremy Corbyn to make him look like a “Soviet stooge” had a social media reach of over 2 million, analysis by Guido can reveal. By contrast, tweets from the BBC debunking the untrue claims received just 2,400 retweets.

Owen Jones’ Newsnight performance in which he alleged “you had Jeremy Corbyn dressed up as a Soviet stooge, you even photoshopped his hat to look more Russian” – an untrue assertion that the BBC has debunked – was clipped up by Momentum and other prominent Corbynista Twitter accounts. The fake claim was also pushed by Labour MP Laura Pidcock. The numbers are a case study in how fake news can go viral:

  • Momentum’s Facebook video falsely claiming the BBC “dressed up” Corbyn had 716,000 views and 20,000 shares.
  • Momentum’s Twitter video had 266,000 views.
  • The same video from the @Limitless_Josh Twitter account had a further 157,000 views.
  • A video from the @jennie_bujold Twitter account had another 70,000 views.
  • Newsnight’s Twitter video of the same section had 204,000 views.
  • Owen Jones repeatedly pushed the claims on his own Twitter account, even after they had been denied and debunked. He has 738,000 followers, his tweets were retweeted 9,000 times.
  • Similar claims by the @ToryFibs account were sent to their 93,000 followers and retweeted 3,000 times.
  • Labour MP Laura Pidcock tweeted the untrue claim to her 40,000 followers, she was retweeted 2,300 times.
  • By contrast… the BBC Press Office tweets denying they photoshopped the image were retweeted just 600 times. Newsnight acting editor Jess Brammar’s tweets debunking the claims had just 1,800 retweets.

This means the hat-gate claims were sent viral to a similar degree as the animal sentience fake news last year. This is not the first time Corbynistas have knowingly pushed untrue claims to millions of unwitting social media users. Owen and his comrades know what they’re doing…

Housebuilding Going Off a Cliff?

Worrying data from the CIPS showing a sharp drop in purchasing managers’ confidence in the residential construction category. Suggests a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to make housebuilding its main domestic mission…

Actual 2017 housing starts are at a ten-year high, with the National House-Building Council expecting housing starts to rise further in 2018. Anecdotal evidence from industry sources suggests foreign construction workers are becoming scarce as returning growth in Europe attracts them to return home. Labour supply may well be a limiting factor for housebuilders…

H/T @rupert_seggins, @GeorgeTrefgarne

74% Say No Deal is Better Than A Bad Deal

The vast majority of the public believes “no deal is better than a bad deal” according to this new Sky Data poll. A decisive 74% agreed the country should walk away rather than accept a punishment deal. Just 26% think “any deal is better than no deal”…

The sentiment holds true across the age range. Among 18-34 year-olds support for “no deal is better than a bad deal” is at 75%. Among 35-54 year-olds it is 74% and 76% among those aged 55+. Near universal support for no deal among the public and yet the government is doing little to prepare…

Brexit Twitter Sentiment Analysis: Faisal’s 683 Negative Tweets Since Referendum

Data Guido has been working hard in a dark room, crunching the numbers to see whether our top broadcast journalists really are impartial on Brexit. So far we have analysed Robert Peston’s relentlessly negative Twitter feed and Nick Robinson’s less than neutral musings. Next up we have Sky News’ Faisal Islam, the Remainers’ TV darling…

  • Faisal has sent 1,467 tweets about Brexit since 24 June 2016.
  • 87 tweets had a positive sentiment, that’s just 6% of his total tweets.
  • 697 tweets were neutral, that’s 47.5%.
  • 683 tweets were negative, that is 46.5% of his total Brexit tweets having a negative sentiment.

Faisal tweets a huge amount about Brexit, far more than Peston or Robbo. The vast majority of his tweets are split between having either a negative sentiment or a neutral sentiment. Only 6% have a positive sentiment. He has sent a massive 683 negative tweets about Brexit since the referendum, which is unrivalled among his broadcast peers.

Guido’s statistical analysis of Faisal, Peston and Robbo has found that three of the highest profile broadcasters covering Brexit tweet with overwhelming negativity. They promote opponents of Brexit far more than proponents, they report negative stories far more than positive ones, and they occasionally let their own pro-Remain opinions slip through as well. The BBC, ITV and Sky are supposed to be impartial – the evidence shows their Brexit journalists are anything but…

Brexit Twitter Sentiment Analysis: Peston 82% Negative

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Data Guido has been hidden away in a dark room, crunching the numbers to see whether our top broadcast journalists really are impartial on Brexit. It is rarely the case that one individual tweet gives the game away and reveals a top TV  presenter’s biases – they usually won’t be so careless.[…] Read the rest

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