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UK watchdog to probe political campaigns trading personal info

Biz said to have helped Trump and Leave.EU campaign to be asked a couple of questions

By Alexander J Martin, 6 Mar 2017

The Information Commissioner's Office is investigating how voters' personal information is being utilised for political campaigns.

As the UK regulator for privacy laws, the ICO is "conducting a wide assessment of the data-protection risks arising from the use of data analytics, including for political purposes, and will be contacting a range of organisations". The results of the study will be published later this year.

In examining the risks of data analytics in the political arena, the ICO has additionally made enquiries of Cambridge Analytica, a company which The Observer reported has ties to both the Trump and Leave.EU campaigns.

The paper has reported that the results of both polls shared not only a reactionary drive, but were also supported by Cambridge Analytica's targeted campaigning efforts on Facebook.

Accordingly, the publication stated that the firm – "which is part-owned by a US billionaire", Robert Mercer – actually "played a key role in the campaign to persuade Britons to vote to leave the European Union". It reported that Mercer, who is also one of the owners of Breitbart, is close friends with Nigel Farage, and offered to donate its services.

A spokeswoman for the ICO confirmed that the regulator had approached Cambridge Analytica, and that it had "concerns about Cambridge Analytica's reported use of personal data".

A spokesman for Cambridge Analytica told The Register: "Cambridge Analytica did not do any work (paid or unpaid) for the Leave.EU campaign. In 2015 the company was in discussions to potentially work with them. That work did not go ahead.

"We are in touch with the ICO, and are happy to demonstrate that we are completely compliant with UK and EU data law." ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing