Personal information gathered from price comparison Web sites might have been used without people’s knowledge or consent by pro-Brexit campaigners in the European referendum.
An ex-director of Cambridge Analytica told parliament last week that she believed the Leave.EU campaign, headed by then-UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader and European Parliament lawmaker Nigel Farage and bankrolled by Arron Banks, might have breached data protection laws by using people’s private information without consent.
She said she had seen with her “own eyes” how Leave.EU had apparently targeted customers of Eldon Insurance — owned by Banks — using their private data to promote anti-Europe messaging.
Banks, Leave.EU and Eldon have vehemently denied having shared any such data, either with each other or with Cambridge Analytica.
However, a “subject access request” submitted to Eldon has revealed that it holds data not just on its own customers, but also on people who have submitted a query to a price comparison Web site (PCW), which involves them agreeing to the site’s privacy terms.
A subject access request is a legal mechanism for individuals to obtain information from companies about what personal information the company holds about them, why it is held and how it is used. Such a request has revealed that personal details from a car insurance query to the PCW Moneysupermarket were passed to Eldon and held in its database. The data included name, date of birth, address, e-mail address, details of friends and family and telephone number.
In its last annual report, Moneysupermarket said that it held data on 24.9 million people — or about half the British electorate.
Moneysupermarket did not respond to the Observer’s questions about whether, and if so to what extent, it had passed on any of its customers’ personal data to Eldon.
Potential customers who use most price comparison Web sites enter multiple pieces of sensitive personal information into an inquiry form that is then passed to partner companies.
The privacy terms of the PCWs make clear that such data sharing might occur. However, the fact that this happens raises the prospect that people who simply searched for insurance online via a PCW could have had their private information shared in a way they might not have realized.
Ravi Naik, a human rights lawyer who specializes in data rights, said it would be “an astonishing misuse” of data.
“It’s absolutely huge,” he said. “In theory, commercial operators could have access to almost every voter in the UK. People should be very concerned. This would absolutely be in breach of the second principle of data protection — that data gathered for one purpose isn’t used for another purpose.”
A former Cambridge Analytica director, Brittany Kaiser last week gave evidence to the select committee of the British Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that Banks asked Cambridge Analytica to combine data from different sources in order to profile and then target voters in the European referendum: “He asked us to design a strategy where we could work with Leave.EU, UKIP and Eldon Insurance data together.”
She also submitted documents that showed “complementary work streams” for UKIP, Leave.EU and Eldon insurance.
“We were asked whether savings could be achieved by running these three programs together, instead of separately,” she said.
Banks owns Eldon, the umbrella group for various insurance brands that includes the GoSkippy brand and underwrites Debenhams insurance. The Leave.EU campaign was based inside its headquarters in Bristol.
Leave.EU said that Kaiser’s testimony was “a confused litany of lies and allegations,” while lawyers for Banks and Eldon said such allegations were “highly defamatory,” that none were true, and that there was no evidence to support them.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”