The Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating the relationship between the Canadian data firm AggregateIQ, Vote Leave and a number of other leave campaigns, the body has said in a report published on Wednesday. The investigation is one of the many started by the ICO in response to reporting by the Observer and Guardian suggesting that widespread data misuse may have occurred during the EU referendum period. The ICO report, citing data handed over by Facebook in May, says: “AIQ created and, in some cases, placed advertisements on behalf of the DUP Vote to Leave campaign, Vote Leave, BeLeave, and Veterans for Britain.
“AIQ ran 218 ads solely on behalf of Vote Leave and directed at email addresses on Facebook. Vote Leave and BeLeave used the same data set to identify audiences and select targeting criteria for ads. However, BeLeave did not then go on to run any ads.
“Payment for all of these Facebook ads was made by AIQ, and amounted to around $2m [£1.5m] … Our regulatory concern is therefore whether, and on what basis, the two groups have shared data between themselves and others.”
The ICO is only able to investigate breaches of data protection law, but the Electoral Commission is separately investigating allegations of unlawful coordination between Vote Leave (the official pro-Brexit campaign during the EU referendum) and BeLeave.