The Canadian data firm that helped Vote Leave win the 2016 Brexit vote has been suspended by Facebook over reports it handled personal data allegedly looted from the social network by Cambridge Analytica.
Facebook says it has suspended AggregateIQ (AIQ) from its platform while it investigates the company’s links to controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica (CA), its parent company SCL, and whether the personal user information allegedly misused by CA was also exploited by AIQ.
A Facebook spokesperson said: “In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received FB user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate.
“Our internal review continues, and we will co-operate fully with any investigations by regulatory authorities.”
CA has come under fire in recent weeks after whistle-blower Chris Wylie alleged they had unlawfully purchased personal and behavioural data on millions of Facebook users whose friends had filled in a quiz online. This information was then allegedly mined by CA to target Facebook users on a granular level, exploiting their hopes and fears to convince them to vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 US election.
Vote Leave spent £2.7m ($3.8m) with AIQ during the 2016 Brexit campaign, more than with any other company. Former Vote Leave volunteer Shahmir Sanni alleges the campaign then funnelled a further £625,000 into AIQ through intermediaries to get around campaign spending limits.
A previous version of AIQ’s website prominently displayed a quote from Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings saying “Without a doubt, the Vote Leave campaign owes a great deal of its success to the work of AggregateIQ. We couldn’t have done it without them.” The quote has since been scrubbed from the AIQ website along with any mention of their role in the Brexit campaign.
Vote Leave denies any wrongdoing, but the Electoral Commission reopened an investigation into their campaign spending in November.
AIQ denies ever being part of CA or SCL and says it has never accessed any improperly obtained Facebook data.