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AggregateIQ: Victoria firm that worked on Brexit also worked for B.C. Greens

The B.C. Green Party has told its supporters that their personal information was accessed by AggregateIQ, the Victoria tech company caught up in an international scandal.
Campaign signs for the 2017 B.C. provincial election.

The B.C. Green Party has told its supporters that their personal information was accessed by AggregateIQ, the Victoria tech company caught up in an international scandal.

The Greens, which hired AggregateIQ to work on a new voter contact database and website in advance of the 2017 provincial election, said they have conducted a privacy review and found no evidence that the data of tens of thousands of voters was misused.

AggregateIQ has told the party it destroyed all records containing voter information, said Stefan Jonsson, the Green Party’s director of communications.

Even though the party’s internal review found there was no data breach, the B.C. Greens sent an email to supporters on Thursday letting them know about the link to AggregateIQ.

The company came under scrutiny in the U.K. and Canada after Victoria-raised Chris Wylie alleged that it worked with U.K.-based political consulting firms Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL Elections to mine personal data and influence elections around the world, including the Brexit vote.

“Over the last couple of weeks, there have been an increasing number of media reports naming AggregateIQ in relation to Cambridge Analytica and expressing allegations of the misuse of personal information and allegations of breaking U.K. political finance rules,” Jonsson noted.

The B.C. Green Party hired AggregateIQ, which bills itself as a digital advertising, web and software development company, in January 2016 to develop software for a voter contact database, Jonsson said.

The connection came through former B.C. Green campaign director Brian Rice and Ray Larson, both of whom had worked on federal Liberal campaigns. Larson has described himself as head of operations for SCL Group, according to the Globe and Mail.

Rice and Larson switched to the Greens after becoming “disillusioned” with the B.C. Liberal Party and had a “genuine interest in wanting to get Green MLAs elected,” Jonsson said.

The Greens asked AggregateIQ to help target certain supporters based on their area of interest, but they did not do any work to “add to or augment the data in our system,” Jonsson said. The party dealt with co-founders Zack Massingham and Jeff Silvester and their employees.

In August 2016, the Greens “determined the project was not meeting our priorities” and ended the contract with AggregateIQ.

The Greens’ database includes names, email addresses, home addresses and phone numbers. Some contacts could also include fundraising history, social media names and interest areas, Jonsson said.

Last week, Green Party executive director Laura Lavin and Jonsson pored over email history, documents and the non-disclosure agreement connected to AggregateIQ.

In the non-disclosure, AggregateIQ agreed it would delete and destroy the data at the end of its contract, Jonsson said. The party contacted AggregateIQ this week and the company confirmed in writing that they deleted all voter information linked to the B.C. Green Party, he said.

The Greens also contacted B.C.’s deputy information and privacy commissioner, Bradley Weldon, to let him know about the contract with AggregateIQ.

“We wanted them to know that we had worked with AggregateIQ in the past, in case they had any information they wanted to share with us or they wanted us to share with them,” Jonsson said.

After the email to supporters, Jonsson said the party has heard from two people who requested that all their information be removed from the Green Party database, which is their right under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

AggregateIQ co-founders Silvester and Massingham have said little since the scandal broke and have not responded to the allegations made by Chris Wylie.

Wylie talked about a psychological warfare tool allegedly used by Cambridge Analytica in tandem with the information of 50 million Facebook users to manipulate voters through social media. Wylie said AggregateIQ was essentially a “department” of SCL and Cambridge Analytica.

AggregateIQ has said it has never been part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL but has acknowledged doing contract work for SCL. The company said in a statement last Saturday that it has never knowingly been involved in illegal activity.

Documents released by the British Parliament show that AggregateIQ agreed to transfer to SCL Elections the intellectual property licence for software it created for SCL, supporting Wylie’s claims that the two businesses shared the same underlying technology.

The documents include contracts between the two companies, again backing up Wylie’s testimony to a parliamentary committee this week that AggregateIQ developed software called Ripon, which was used to identify Republican voters in advance of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Also made public was a 2013 contract in which SCL hired AggregateIQ to acquire the internet browsing histories and online behaviour of voters in Trinidad and Tobago in order to benefit the Congress of the People party.

In a two-month contract worth $200,000 and signed by Silvester and Massingham, AggregateIQ was tasked with identifying and obtaining “qualified sources of data that illustrate user behaviour and contribute to the development of psychographic profiling in the region.”

AggregateIQ is one of 30 groups being questioned by U.K. information commissioner Elizabeth Denham as part of an investigation on the use of data analytics for political purposes. B.C.’s deputy information and privacy commissioner, Michael McEvoy, has spent six months helping Denham with her investigation

B.C.’s privacy watchdog has a separate investigation into whether AggregateIQ broke private-sector privacy laws.

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