B.C. firm linked to Facebook data scandal defends its political work

AggregateIQ says it helps customers craft messages for online political ads, use data for campaigns

The co-founders of a B.C. company at the centre of the international scandal over the alleged inappropriate use of Facebook data are defending their work in support of political campaigns around the globe.

Speaking to a parliamentary committee, Jeff Silvester of the B.C.-based political advertising firm AggregateIQ says the company helps its customers craft their messages for online political ads and how to effectively make use of data for their campaigns.

But Silvester, the firm’s chief operating officer, insists AggregateIQ does not harvest data and only uses what it is provided — nor does it undertake any kind of voter profiling, including psychographic profiling.

He says the company’s work differs little from what political campaigns in Canada do to promote a candidate or a party, such as putting up lawn signs, sending volunteers to knock on doors and making phone calls.

The Victoria firm has been suspended by Facebook and is under investigation by privacy commissioners in Ottawa, B.C. and the United Kingdom for its role in a controversy that allegedly involved a breach of millions of users’ private information to help the “Leave” side win the U.K.’s 2016 Brexit referendum.

READ MORE: B.C., federal privacy watchdogs to probe possible privacy breaches at Aggregate IQ, Facebook

READ MORE: Victoria firm tied to Facebook scandal got $100K from feds in 2017

AggregateIQ has also been linked to Cambridge Analytica, the political consultancy firm accused of improperly accessing the private Facebook data to help the Leave campaign in Brexit as well as Donald Trump’s winning 2016 U.S. presidential bid.

In his testimony Tuesday, Silvester said AggregateIQ has always complied with laws in Canada and abroad. He also disputed allegations raised by Canadian data expert and whistle-blower Christopher Wylie, saying AggregateIQ has never been part of Cambridge Analytica nor its parent company, SCL.

“We are not data harvesters by any stretch of the imagination and, certainly, we don’t do psychographic profiling or profiling of any other type,” he told the committee on access to information, privacy and ethics, which is holding hearings this month on the data breach involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.

“We’re not psychologists, we’re tech guys.”

Efforts by volunteers and political candidates themselves to persuade voters are no different from the work of AggregateIQ, he added.

“The ads that we show — it’s the digital equivalent of an ad on someone’s lawn or on a street corner,” he said.

“You choose where you want it go, you put your message on there and people drive by and see it. And it’s the same for the internet and same with going door to door and the same with making phone calls.”

Facebook estimates the personal information of 622,161 users in Canada — and nearly 87 million worldwide — was improperly accessed by Cambridge Analytica.

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Haida Gwaii seabird conservation highlighted at international congress

Bird Studies Canada’s David Bradley is co-convening a symposium on biosecurity for island species

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Ferry sailing delayed after divers check Northern Adventure

Divers called in to check propeller shaft, sailing to Haida Gwaii now 140 minutes behind

Haida Gwaii fishery staff gear up for marine mammal rescues

Haida fishery guardians and DFO fishery officers better equipped to rescue marine mammals

Social media, digital photography allow millennials to flock to birdwatching

More young people are flocking to birdwatching than ever, aided by social media, digital photography

‘Takes more courage to fail’: B.C. ultra-marathon swimmer reflects on cancelled try at record

Susan Simmons halted her swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back because of hypothermia

Animals moved from B.C. Interior shelters to make way for pets displaced by wildfires

The Maple Ridge SPCA houses animals to make space for pets evacuated from B.C.’s burning interior.

$21.5 million medical pot plant to be built in B.C.

The facility is to be built in Princeton

Spokane man enlists 500,000+ box fans to blow wildfire smoke back to B.C.

Spokane man Caleb Moon says he’s had enough with smoky skies from B.C.’s forest fires blanketing his city

Feds agree to look at easing jury secrecy as part of review

At issue is a law that forbids jurors from talking about closed-door deliberations

Forest fuel work needed to slow wildfires, B.C. premier says

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan joins John Horgan for tour

Liberals unveil poverty plan with lofty goals, but no new spending

Government’s goal is to lift 2.1 million people out of poverty by 2030

PHOTOS: Prickly porcupine rescued after hitchhiking down Coquihalla Highway

BC Conservation Officer Service members were able to grab the porcupine and move it to safety

Most Read