By Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER – A small Victoria, B.C.-based tech firm has found itself mired in a privacy scandal unfolding in Europe as it faces accusations that it played a role in influencing Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.
AggregateIQ Data Services Ltd. is a digital advertising, web and software development company, according to its website.
Whistleblowers claim the company is connected to efforts to circumvent election finance rules during the Brexit referendum and played an outsized role in the eventual win for the “leave” side.
They say that VoteLeave violated the spending limit rules by donating 625,000 pounds (about C$1.1 million) to the pro-Brexit student group BeLeave, then sending the money directly to AggregateIQ.
One of the whistleblowers, Christopher Wylie, claims he helped found AggregateIQ while he worked for SCL, which is the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. Wylie also alleges that Cambridge Analytica used data harvested from more than 50-million Facebook users to help U.S. President Donald Trump win the 2016 election.
Wylie told the digital, culture, media and sport committee of the U.K. Parliament that he “absolutely” believed AggregateIQ drew on Cambridge Analytica’s databases for its work on the official Vote Leave campaign.
“I think it is incredibly reasonable to say that AIQ played a very significant role in Leave winning,” he said.
The campaign appears to have previously verified the company’s role in its success.
“Without a doubt, the Vote Leave campaign owes a great deal of its success to the work of AggregateIQ. We couldn’t have done it without them,” reads a quote from Dominic Cummings, a Vote Leave campaign director, on a cached version of AggregateIQ’s website.
AggregateIQ did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment and its listed office line went unanswered and did not connect to a voicemail service.
The company denies any connection to Cambridge Analytica in a statement posted on its website on March 24 and said it works in full legal and regulatory compliance in the jurisdictions where it operates.
“AggregateIQ has never been and is not a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL”, reads the statement, adding that it never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica or employed Wylie.
“It has never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity,” it said. “All work AggregateIQ does for each client is kept separate from every other client.”
However, a cached version of SCL’s website shows it once listed a Canadian office located in Victoria. The phone number listed leads to Zackary Massingham, AggregateIQ’s president since 2011, according to his LinkedIn page. He did not respond to a voicemail left at that number.
AggregateIQ’s website also previously included a statement defending the company against allegations it used Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook data.
The company said it “has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.” That statement has since been removed from the website.
— With files from the Associated Press