Canada’s privacy czar has publicly suggested he may join in on the ongoing probes against AggregateIQ, the B.C. company tied to the Facebook data controversy and money flows around the 2016 Brexit vote.
The Victoria-based political consultancy was already facing scrutiny for its role in working with British firms toward shaping the Brexit vote in favour of the campaign to leave the European Union. Privacy officials based in British Columbia and in Britain have been investigating for months, but recent revelations have led the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to suggest that he may now want to be part of the investigative efforts.
“We have been in communication with our provincial colleagues in British Columbia to monitor the situation,” Daniel Therrien told reporters in Toronto Wednesday. “Given all of the allegations, including Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, we’re looking at how to act and whether we will do more than monitor the situation.”
Mr. Therrien said he and his counterparts are “now discussing whether to make that collaboration more concrete.”
Separately, a federal opposition politician in Canada is pressing for AggregateIQ’s founders to appear before a legislative committee. “It will be good to hear AggregateIQ give testimony at the Ethics/Privacy Committee in Parliament,” NDP MP Charlie Angus tweeted on Wednesday.
The once-obscure West Coast company has repeatedly stated that it is simply “a digital advertising, web and software-development company based in Canada.” And says it is a company that works “in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where it operates.”
However, 28-year-old Canadian whistle-blower Christopher Wylie has lately been doing all he can to debunk that position, claiming AggregateIQ was a key adjunct in the British consultancies he helped set up five years ago.
In 2013, he joined a consultancy called the SCL Group, from which he helped carve out an elections-focused unit known as Cambridge Analytica. Around the same time, he says, he urged some tech-savvy political friends from Canada to support these enterprises by starting up AggregateIQ.
To back up this story, Mr. Wylie supplied testimony and documents to the British Parliament last week as he publicly alleged that all of these entities were drawn to datasets that they weren’t allowed to possess as they took paid contracts to help shape elections and referendums around the world.
This intricate and complex web of consultancies, money movements and data-driven campaigning only recently started unravelling. Yet Mr. Wylie has also tweeted that months before going public with all this information, he started making disclosures to the U.K. Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham.
Prior to moving to Britain in 2016, Ms. Denham had worked in Canada, for both the federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner and also as B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner.
It’s these same three privacy watchdog offices that are all now comparing notes as they try to determine whether Cambridge Analytica or AggregateIQ broke laws.
Speaking to reporters in Toronto Wednesday, Mr. Therrien said he is having “meaningful” conversations about these matters with his colleagues – including Michael McEvoy, the new B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Before officially taking that job this week, Mr. McEvoy had spent months in Britain where he had been seconded to work with Ms. Denham and her office.
“The law actually gives us the tools to have communications with our provincial colleagues in the context of investigations so that we have meaningful, concrete, fact-based conversations on how we see the situation,” Mr. Therrien told reporters. “And whether privacy laws are being respected or not.”