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…

Continue reading

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…

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…

“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…

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…

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:

Continue reading

The Other Cambridge Analytica: Whistleblower Wylie’s Own Dodgy Data Dealings

While the ICO’s report into data use in the referendum principally served to blow apart Carole Cadwalladr’s main Brexit conspiracy, one aspect of the report that has largely been overlooked is the role of data-hustler-turned-whistleblower Chris Wylie. The one who made an international media and public speaking career out of setting up Cambridge Analytica and then dobbing them in…

A notable feature of the ICO report is how few people are explicitly named in it – not even Arron Banks is. The few that are include Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, Dr Aleksandr Kogan, the academic whose company harvested the data behind the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a couple of other individuals related to Cambridge Analytica, and Chris Wylie. Not exactly the good guys in this whole saga…

Wylie’s inclusion in the report is not in the context of his role as whistleblower, it is as a key part of how Cambridge Analytica came to acquire the Facebook data at the heart of the scandal in the first place:

“In May 2014, Dr Aleksandr Kogan… offered to undertake the work himself as he had developed his own app called the ‘CPW Lab App’… We have seen evidence that CA staff, including whistleblower Chris Wylie, were involved in setting up these contacts through their networks of friends and colleagues; many of whom had been involved in earlier campaigns in North America…

“Once the company was set up and a contract signed with CA, Dr Kogan, with some help from Chris Wylie, overhauled the ‘CPW Lab App’ changing the name, terms and conditions of the app into the ‘GSR App’ which ultimately became thisisyourdigitallife (the app).”

Wylie himself has never denied his role in creating Cambridge Analytica, telling Damian Collins’ DCMS Select Committee in March: “To be clear, Cambridge Analytica was set up in large part because of the research I was doing at SCL Group [Cambridge Analytica’s parent company].”

However, Cambridge Analytica was not the only company which received the illicit Facebook data set that resulted from Wylie’s work with Dr Kogan. As has been reported in North American press (and confirmed by Mark Zuckerberg to the US Congress) but largely ignored in the UK, the harvested data was also acquired by one other company, Eunoia Technologies. Eunoia Technologies Inc. was a separate company registered in the US on 12th June 2014… by Chris Wylie.

Wylie’s background is in centre-left politics, he worked for many years with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party in Canada and also worked with the Liberal Democrats in the UK. Since becoming a whistleblower, he has described social data harvesting as “grossly unethical”…

However, that didn’t stop Eunoia unsuccessfully trying to flog its services to Donald Trump’s campaign director in early 2015, before Eunoia again attempted to sell their services to the Remain campaign in November 2015, as Private Eye reported in April this year. Finally, he had yet another pitch rebuffed in January 2016, this time with Vote Leave’s Dominic Cummings dismissing his offer of “psychographic microtargeting”. Evidently Cummings was not the only one who concluded they were “charlatans”…

Zuckerberg told the US Congress that Wylie had certified to Facebook that Eunoia deleted its data in August 2016, but added that Facebook had “no way to confirm” activities that had “taken place off Facebook and its systems”. Eunoia’s UK branch didn’t wind up as a company until 24 October 2017.

The ICO’s report itself is inconclusive about the fate of the Facebook data, confirming that their own investigations into it are still ongoing:

“Our concerns also extend to who else may have received the harvested data and what they then did with it; our enquiries are active and continuing in that regard…”

“We will be making sure any organisations, which may still have copies of the Facebook data and its derivatives demonstrate its deletion.”

Given his intimate involvement in the genesis of the scandal, it would be remarkable if Wylie and Eunoia were not key lines of inquiry for the ICO in this regard. Only two companies are known to have received the illicit data – Cambridge Analytica and Eunoia. The ICO obtained a search warrant and raided the offices of one. What has it done about the other?

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”…

Lib Dems Accused of Selling Membership Data to Stronger In

The Liberal Democrats are accused of selling the personal data of party members to the Stronger In campaign. The allegation is contained within the Information Commissioner’s Office report into referendum spending, sections of which have been seen by Guido, which is due to be released later today. The ICO’s report says that they have received the allegation that the Lib Dems sold the data to BSE for £100,000. Not that you’d know from the current state of their finances…

The report also piles further woe on Arron Banks, who could face £135,000 in fines for using the customer database of his Eldon insurance firm to send out unauthorised political marketing from Leave.EU.

Whilst the Lib Dems and BSE have denied the allegation against them, both admit that BSE had bought electoral register information from the party. The ICO say they are “still looking at how the Remain side handled personal data”. Guido looks forward to them pursuing their investigation into Remain with as much zeal as they’ve been looking into the Leave side…

Tories Get Away With Call Centre Push Polling

Channel 4 News were pushing hard to nail the Tories for running a push polling operation – Blue Telecoms – during the general election. The Information Commissioner has now ruled:

We’ve found that two small sections of the written scripts used by those making the calls crossed the line from legitimate market research to unlawful direct marketing. We’ve warned the Conservative Party to get it right next time.

The ICO stopped short of formal regulatory action because they believe the overall campaign was genuine market research. The two sections they had concerns about were not enough to trigger formal enforcement action.

Channel 4 News were hyping that the police were conducting a “significant investigation”. The police say no further action will be taken. Guido is looking forward to the follow-up Channel 4 News investigation into push polling carried out on behalf of the Labour Party by the GMB and Unite unions…

Shadow Health Secretary Breached Data Protection Act

Doh! Just two days into the job and Corbyn’s new Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander has been censured for breaching the Data Protection Act. Heidi was investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office after she was reported by a constituent who is suing her for “harvesting” his email and sending him “spam” messages. The ICO found in his favour:

ico heidi hi

Ian Dunmore, the man who reported Heidi, says he was inundated with regular updates of her “brilliant achievements” after he sent her a question via email. Let’s hope she would be less blasé about the private records of NHS patients…

Seen Elsewhere



Tip offs: 020 7193 4041
team@Order-order.com

Quote of the Day

Councillor John Thomas, Keith Vaz’s Leicester East Constituency Labour Party Chairman says…

“This is great disappointment to me, realising that I have spent over 30 years of my life working for a party that I now know that I have nothing in common with. This is not the party I joined, the party for decent working people. I can no longer follow the clown that leads the Labour Party, he is heavily influenced by the Trotskyite Len McCluskey and is now as the Hoki Coki leader, in out, and shake it all about he has turned this great party into a laughing stock.”

Sponsors

Guidogram: Sign up

Subscribe to the most succinct 7 days a week daily email read by thousands of Westminster insiders.