Hunt Reported to Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Over MP Mailshot

Entrepreneur Jeremy Hunt has been coming up with some enterprising strategies to try to reach as many voters as possible in the Tory leadership election. Tory Association Chairmen across the country have been receiving an email from his campaign manager Philip Dunne MP, asking them to forward on two attachments detailing his ten policy pledges to their local memberships. A savvy way to get round GDPR regulations, if the Association Chairmen oblige…

Now he’s found himself in a bit of hot water over a letter he sent to all Tory MPs earlier in the campaign, on the 10th June when the MP voting stage was still in full swing. Hunt used official House of Commons headed letter paper complete with his picture and official campaign slogan in the corner – he’s now been reported to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards by Priti Patel for misuse of Commons stationery. Priti says it could be a “clear breach of Parliamentary rules” which specifically prohibit its use for party political purposes and has asked them to clarify the matter. Awkward…

Read the letter in full below…

UPDATE: Sam Coates has got hold of a separate set of emails which appear to show Hunt’s campaign directly violating data rules. Hunt’s team have been sending out apologies and removing people from distribution lists and say the emails were sent out “mistakenly”. Did they “mistakenly” gather the private phone numbers and email addresses too?

UPDATE: Andrew Bridgen has reported the Hunt campaign to the Information Commissioner’s Office over the alleged data breach. Team Hunt already did the same thing to Team Boris earlier this week via Harriett Baldwin, leadership contest getting dirtier…

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mdi-timer 5th July 2019 @ 5:25 pm 5th Jul 2019 @ 5:25 pm mdi-comment Comments
Jo Swinson Apologises for Mailshot Breach

Jo Swinson’s in a bit of hot water after reports her campaign spammed a load of Lib Dem members with a mailshot when they’d specifically opted out of being contacted. No doubt the ICO will take this breach as seriously as if Brexiteers had done it…

mdi-timer 30th June 2019 @ 1:15 pm 30th Jun 2019 @ 1:15 pm mdi-comment Comments
Clegg: ‘Absolutely No Evidence’ Russia Influenced Brexit

Carole Cadwalladr and David Lammy have been spluttering furiously into their cornflakes all morning after Nick Clegg told the Today Programme that there was “absolutely no evidence” that Russia or Cambridge Analytica influenced Brexit. Clegg said “we have a duty to explain fact from some of the allegations that have been made”. Clearly not a duty that Carole has ever felt bound by herself

“Much though I understand why people want to reduce that eruption in British politics to some kind of plot or conspiracy, some use of new social media through opaque means, I’m afraid the roots to British euroscepticism go very, very deep…”

Never mind the fact that the official report from the Information Commissioner’s Office already crushed all of Carole’s grand conspiracies about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Brexit, raising questions about her pet whistleblower Chris Wylie instead. Clegg hasn’t triggered anyone this badly since tuition fees…

If she wants to start addressing disinformation on social media she could start with her own Observer ‘scoop’ over the weekend in which she deliberately mistranscribes a video of Steve Bannon talking about Boris. Bannon says “we went back and forth over text”, instead Carole transcribes this as “back and forth over the text” which then forms the crux of her story. The same people who’d be the first to say Bannon is a pathological liar are now taking an entirely unsubstantiated boast from him as the gospel truth before distorting it even further themselves…

mdi-timer 24th June 2019 @ 10:26 am 24th Jun 2019 @ 10:26 am mdi-comment Comments
“Vindictive” ICO Hits Vote Leave With £40,000 Fine For Not Having Data They Agreed to Delete

The state’s war of attrition against Brexit is continuing to grind on with the Information Commissioner’s Office today taking the decision to slap Vote Leave with a monster fine of £40,000. The ICO’s justification for the fine was that Vote Leave had violated data protection laws because were unable to prove that text messages sent to voters had been done with their consent. The reason Vote Leave were unable to prove it was specifically because they deleted their entire database after the vote as agreed with the ICO before the referendum. A truly Kafka-esque perversion of justice…

The ICO’s best practice guidelines say that data controllers should delete data once it is no longer serving the purpose for which is collected, hence why Vote Leave specified in their data policy that they would delete all the data after the referendum. Meanwhile the Remain campaign – now in its third different incarnation as People’s Vote – kept its entire database from the referendum campaign and has continued to pump out messages to its database on an almost daily basis since the referendum. Funnily enough the regulators don’t have a problem with that…

A Vote Leave spokesman slammed the “vindictive” decision from the ICO, saying that it just “shows their desperation to pin something on us after we had rebutted all of their other ludicrous theories”:

“Fewer than 20 people made complaints about the 196,000 text messages we sent during the referendum campaign. This is far lower than the commercial texting campaigns who have previously been fined by the ICO. Vote Leave was operating in a highly political environment, which makes false allegations much more likely. It is therefore highly likely that the tiny number of people who complained to the ICO were doing so for political purposes.

“The ICO took over two years to bring these complaints to our attention, when they could easily have done so in the summer of 2016. Unlike the Stronger In campaign, we deleted all of our data after the referendum as agreed with the ICO, so their decision to prosecute us now feels particularly vindictive.

“Both during and after the referendum, Vote Leave complied with both the letter and spirit of the law. We have exchanged 46 letters with the ICO since the referendum, most of them refuting conspiracy theories peddled by people unhappy with the referendum result. To be fined £40,000 for fewer than 20 complaints which they were aware of over two years ago, shows their desperation to pin something on us after we had rebutted all of their other ludicrous theories.”

Brexiteers who think that Brexit will somehow come out more to their liking after a two-year delay or a second referendum only need to look at the way Brexit campaigners have been relentlessly pursued since the referendum to see how it will play out in reality. It’s now or never for Brexit…

mdi-timer 19th March 2019 @ 2:16 pm 19th Mar 2019 @ 2:16 pm mdi-comment Comments
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…

mdi-timer 1st February 2019 @ 11:15 am 1st Feb 2019 @ 11:15 am mdi-comment Comments
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…

See also:

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mdi-timer 18th December 2018 @ 2:05 pm 18th Dec 2018 @ 2:05 pm mdi-comment Comments
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