British Columbia

B.C. names feature in the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal

The unfolding international data mining scandal has numerous ties to B.C. Here's a few of them.

The international data mining scandal has many ties to B.C., including to a company called AggregateIQ

Neighbours say AggregateIQ vacated its Victoria office at 240-560 Johnson St. in January and there's now a "for lease" sign in the window. Work AggregateIQ did on behalf of the Brexit Leave campaign is being investigated. (Sterling Eyford/CBC)

The tangled web of information and allegations emerging from the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica data mining story has a number of threads leading to B.C. Here are a few:

Christopher Wylie - Whistleblower

The pink haired, 28-year-old Victoria native who first began dabbling in politics as a teenager around 2006 when he became the youth representative for Liberal MP Keith Martin in the riding of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca. 

Christopher Wylie told CBC News that Cambridge Analytica targeted millions of Americans during the election campaign without their knowledge based on psychological profiles and surveys. (Lily Martin/CBC)

Wylie transferred to Martin's Ottawa office and went on to work for the federal Liberals, the U.S. Democrats, the Liberal Democrats in the U.K., and eventually for London-based Cambridge Analytica, the company at the centre of the international data mining scandal.

Wylie is now blowing the whistle on a number of voter manipulation schemes run by Cambridge Analytica and other companies.

Cambridge Analytica 

Founded in part by Wylie, the British political consulting firm, whose vice-president was former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is alleged to have obtained the private information of more than 50 million Facebook users, which was then used to influence voter behaviour for clients such as Donald Trump in his 2016 election campaign.

Facebook expressed outrage over the misuse of its data as Cambridge Analytica, the British firm at the centre of a major scandal rocking the social media giant, suspended its chief executive. (AFP/Getty Images)

Wylie has described himself as the developer of Bannon's "psychological warfare tool." 

AggregateIQ (AIQ)

The Victoria, B.C.-based data services company is purported to have had an outsized role in convincing British voters to leave the European Union in a way that sidestepped Brexit campaign spending limits. Whether the firm was in on the alleged illegalities itself is still unclear, although Wylie and another whistleblower have indicated they were.

AggregateIQ is still listed in the directory at its former offices on Johnson Street in Victoria despite having vacated the building two months ago. (Sterling Eyford/CBC)

In a statement to CBC News, AggregateIQ says it "has never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity."

Jeff Silvester, AIQ cofounder

The Victoria resident is described by Wylie as a mentor from his teenage days. Silvester, 41, worked as executive assistant to Martin when he served in Parliament. 

Wylie said he urged Silvester to join him in London at Cambridge Analytica, but Silvester did not want to move from Victoria and offered instead to set up a Canadian arm of the company.

Zack Massingham, AIQ co-founder

Massingham, 35, is also a Victoria resident with political ties. Before forming AIQ in 2013 he worked on the 2011 B.C. Liberal leadership campaign of Mike de Jong.

Former B.C. Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham now holds the same role in the U.K. and is investigating Cambridge Analytica, Facebook and AggregrateIQ on allegations of improper data mining. (CBC)

Elizabeth Denham and Michael McEvoy

The former B.C. information and privacy commissioner was appointed U.K. information commissioner in 2016  and is now pursuing investigations on various fronts, including into AggregateIQ, Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook for alleged misuse of personal information.

B.C.'s incoming privacy commissioner Michael McEvoy has been seconded by Denham and is leading the investigation into the Brexit Leave campaign in the U.K..

Meanwhile, B.C.'s acting privacy commissioner Drew McArthur is looking into AggregateIQ and has discussed the matter with Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

With files from Matthew Braga, Adrienne Arsenault, Jennifer Barr and Albert Leung. 

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said B.C.'s acting privacy commissioner was looking into AggregateIQ under the direction of Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner. In fact, B.C.'s acting privacy commissioner, while examining AggregateIQ, has only discussed the matter with Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
    Mar 28, 2018 6:30 AM PT

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