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

Freshet of 2018 evokes memories of the flood of 1948

And while the devastation of 70 years ago informs flood protection now, similar event not predicted

Chilliwack Chiefs prove doubters wrong with RBC Cup triumph

The Chiefs played with a chip on their shoulders, claiming their 1st-ever national junior A title.

Chilliwack Chiefs make history with first RBC Cup win

In front of a huge and noisy crowd, the Chiefs claimed their first-ever national junior A title.

Rising river prompts road closure in Chilliwack

Fraser expected to continue rise on Monday

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

Arrest made in last week’s double shooting in East Van

Carleton Stevens, 37, is charged with attempted murder and remains in custody

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

Martin Mars waterbombers’ firefighting days are done

Wayne Coulson said his company still hopes to find a new home for the vintage aircraft

NHL playoffs weekly roundup

Vegas Golden Knights have done the impossible and have a chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup

Changes needed for ‘Alert Ready’ mass emergency system

‘You need to strike this careful balance between alerting people to lots of problems — and doing it too often’

Las Vegas Golden Knights move on to Stanley Cup final

Improbable run continues for NHL’s newest expansion team

Most Read