Data firm Aggregate IQ broke law by sharing personal information with Facebook without user consent, B.C. investigation finds

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VANCOUVER—A Victoria-based data firm violated B.C. and Canadian laws when it collected and used personal data for political clients in the U.K., U.S. and Canada, a British Columbia-based investigation has found.

The results of the joint investigation by the privacy commissioners of British Columbia and of Canada were released Tuesday.

In what investigators described as the “most egregious” incidents, Aggregate IQ Data Services (AIQ) was found to have used personal data including names, ethnicity, marital status, voting intention and “psychographic profiles” to build tools for AIQ’s clients’ use in U.S. political campaigns. That information was derived from Facebook data obtained by Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections.

In other instances, AIQ was found to have disclosed personal third-party information to Facebook. AIQ also provided services to two groups in the 2016 U.K. Brexit referendum, Vote Leave and BeLeave, the investigation has found.

The joint investigation released Tuesday by the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada found that, in many instances, the company utilized or shared third-party data without obtaining or ensuring it had consent to do so.

“This has profound implications for our fundamental democratic principles,” said Daniel Therrien, privacy commissioner of Canada, at a news conference on Tuesday. “With AIQ we now have a Canadian player paying a key role in a troubling data ecosystem. This is too close for comfort.”

In some instances, AIQ acted within U.S. regulations, but was in violation of B.C. and Canadian privacy laws, the investigation found. Investigators said this underscored how digital companies need to follow rules in every jurisdiction they operate in.

In an email statement, AIQ’s chief operating officer, Jeff Silvester, said the company was “happy to co-operate fully with the commissioners,” and has complied with their recommendations.

“While this investigation imposed a tremendous burden on a small company, and took a very long time to complete, the privacy issues engaged by a new and internationally connected economy are important,” Silvester said.

“As the report confirms, and as we told the commissioners long ago, we have already implemented all of the recommendations.”

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Cherise Seucharan





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