Politics

NDP wants to haul co-founder of firm linked to Brexit scandal before committee

One of the co-founders of the Canadian firm at the heart of the Brexit spending scandal could soon find himself forced in front of a House of Commons committee, if the NDP gets its way.

3 main political parties say they haven't hired B.C.'s AggregateIQ

A pile of documents provided to the CBC involving Aggregate IQ. The Canadian online advertising company has been widely credited for its outsized role in convincing British voters to leave, but a whistleblower says it was also used in an effort to sidestep Brexit campaign spending limits. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

One of the co-founders of the Canadian firm at the heart of the Brexit spending scandal could soon find himself forced in front of a House of Commons committee, if the NDP gets its way.

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus urged the standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics to call Jeff Silvester of AggregateIQ (AIQ) to testify — and to subpoena him, if necessary.

"I am concerned, and I just want to put it on the record for my colleagues to think of that right now," Angus told the committee Tuesday morning.

"In the United Kingdom, the question of whether the Facebook platform was used illegally to undermine the Brexit vote and possibly change the Brexit vote has a direct Canadian link to Jeff Silvester and the work that AIQ did.

"It would well be in the mandate of our committee to call Mr. Silvester to testify because of the power of these third party operators to misuse personal data."

During his testimony before a U.K. parliamentary committee on Tuesday, Canadian whistleblower Chris Wylie said he believed the British Columbia-based marketing and software development company had access to data inappropriately collected from millions of Facebook users. He alleged the data had been used to influence the Brexit referendum.

Wylie was called to testify after going public with allegations that his former employer, Cambridge Analytica, improperly harvested details of 50 million Facebook users and used the material in U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign.

During his testimony at a U.K. parliamentary committee on Tuesday, Canadian whistleblower Chris Wylie said he believed the British Columbia-based company AggregateIQ had access to data that was inappropriately collected from millions of Facebook users, and alleged it had been used to influence the Brexit referendum. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

The pink-haired whistleblower testified that he "absolutely" believed AIQ had drawn on Cambridge Analytica's databases for its work on the Brexit referendum and said it was "reasonable" to conclude that "cheating" in the Brexit vote, through the manipulation of data to influence voters, may have altered the outcome.

Privacy commissioner's team met with Facebook

Angus said the Canadian committee could share information with its U.K. counterparts and vice versa.

"We're talking about something that's much broader in terms of potential impact on the democratic process than what we've looked at in the past," he said.

Other members of the committee agreed to discuss the issue at a later date.

"We have been in contact with our provincial counterpart in British Columbia, which has been examining matters related to  AggregateIQ," Valerie Lawton, spokeswoman for Canada's Office of the Privacy Commissioner, said in a statement to CBC.

"Our discussions with them are ongoing."

A Canadian company called AggregateIQ was used in an effort to sidestep Brexit campaign spending limits, according to a whistleblower. 12:48

Lawton said the privacy commissioner has met with Scott Brison, acting democratic institutions minister, to push to have privacy laws cover political parties. Officials from the commissioner's office met with Facebook on Friday, said Lawton.

AIQ has denied any wrongdoing.

"AggregateIQ works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where we operate" and has "never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity," the company told CBC News,

AIQ also has publicly distanced itself from Cambridge Analytica.

"AggregateIQ has never been and is not a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL," AIQ said in a statement posted on its website on March 24. "Aggregate IQ has never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica. Chris Wylie has never been employed by AggregateIQ."

The federal Liberals, Conservatives and NDP all say they haven't worked with AIQ.

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