MI5 ‘Had Evidence’ Information Commissioner Was Under Surveillance in Cambridge Analytica Scandal
Several years ago, Cambridge Analytica ended up in the thick of a scandal that involved Facebook. The UK private political consulting firm collected and used data from 87 million Facebook subscribers to study their habits and work out how best to influence their voting preferences in the 2016 US presidential election.
UK Labour politician Liam Byrne has claimed MI5 obtained evidence that major Brexit donor Arron Banks ordered surveillance of the country’s information commissioner amid the Cambridge Analytica row
, first revealed in 2018.
In a message to the House of Commons on Saturday, Byrne argued that he “had been told Elizabeth Denham, who was information commissioner at the height of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, was warned by counter-terrorism officers that MI5 had evidence that she was under active intrusive surveillance ordered by Arron Banks, so her office had to be swept.”
Banks, the co-founder of the Leave.EU campaign, was quick to respond by saying in an interview with The Independent that he had heard “enough crazy conspiracy theories to last me a lifetime”.
“I’m not really interested in MPs that use parliamentary privilege to land allegations. Say it outside parliament,” he added. Banks was referring to the privilege used by Byrne during a wider debate on how well-off people use UK courts to silence journalists and regulators.
The Information Commissioner’s office has not commented on the matter yet.
Banks is believed to be a figurehead for the successful Brexit referendum in 2016, through his Leave.EU group at the time, which was separate from the Vote Leave campaign, headed by Boris Johnson.
As for Cambridge Analytica, the British private political consulting firm
ended operations in 2018, after it was embroiled in a scandal in the wake of revelations made by former employee Christopher Wylie that the company harvested the data of 87 million Facebook users via an app called "This Is Your Digital Life" and Facebook's Open Graph platform, with the vast majority being US citizens.
6 December 2019, 17:43 GMT
The data included the public profile of users, page likes, birthday and present city, as well as a possible news feed, timeline, and messages. Cambridge Analytica used all this to create psychometric profiles of the users to offer ways to affect how they vote.
US 2016 presidential hopefuls Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, as well as Brexit campaigners were among those who hired Cambridge Analytica around the time it bought the aforementioned data.