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

Take-home naloxone may be replacing 911 calls in Fraser Health area

Naloxone kits handed out up 29% over 2017, ambulance calls and emergency visits down 22-24%, deaths hold steady

Pilots open exhibition schedule

Abbotsford hosts Mission on Friday night

Flavelle to run for council

Frequent Abbotsford council observer seeking his own seat

GOLD: A brand-new socially conscious piece of theatre

Burlesque-theatre show, part of The Goddess Movement, comes to Abbotsford

Longtime pals release game backed by Kickstarter campaign

Zebulon: Galactic Control created by Abbotsford pair

Happy birthday Boler: An anniversary gathering of the cutest campers in Winnipeg

Hundreds of the unique trailers in Winnipeg to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Manitoba invention

Reported home invasion led to seven arrests in Maple Ridge

Port Coquitlam home invasion suspects tracked to Albion neighbourhood

Tim Hortons says its China expansion will include menu with congee, matcha

Coffee chain plans to open 1,500 stores in Asia over the next decade

How to help B.C. wildfire victims

Donations being taken by many organizations, BC Hydro waiving bills

5 to start your day

Mt. Hicks fire near Agassiz 15% contained, man dead in Surrey motorcycle incident and more

Two 23-year-old men die in separate Surrey motorcycle crashes in three days

One man died Thursday night after his motorcycle crashed on Highway 10, and another man died following a Tuesday crash

Whole city of Kimberley on an evacuation alert due to wildfires

Residents woke up Friday morning being told to get ready to leave any moment

Feds to allow charities to engage in political, but not partisan, activity

The plan is to allow charities to pursue political activities

Trump suggests Canada has been sidelined from latest NAFTA negotiations

Canadian officials have insisted they’re unfazed by being left out of the discussions

Most Read