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Thursday, December 14, 2017

UKIP to face tribunal over EU referendum campaign

The Guardian reports that UKIP is to face a tribunal over its use of analytics during the EU referendum after refusing to cooperate with an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The Information Commissioner says that inquiry has been launched because she is concerned about invisible processing of data ‘behind the scenes’, including 'algorithms, analysis, data matching, profiling that involves people’s personal information'. She adds: "When the purpose for using these techniques is related to the democratic process, the case for a high standard of transparency is very strong,”

The ICO had issued four information notices, formally ordering organisations to disclose information, including one to UKIP, who have now appealed the notice to the information rights tribunal. Apparently, they don't want to face criminal sanctions if it is shown that they have broken the law. So it is the same old story as far as they are concerned: one rule for UKIP, another rule for everybody else.

In fact this inquiry is very important. In particular, there is a need for transparency after huge sums of money were diverted to a Canadian firm, AggregateIQ, which is being investigated by Canada's Information Commissioner as to whether it is compliant with privacy legislation in that jurisdiction:

The Electoral Commission is separately investigating whether Vote Leave, the lead campaign for the leave vote in the referendum, broke spending laws by coordinating spending with other campaign groups.

The investigation hinges on Vote Leave’s decision to make donations totalling £625,000 to Grimes, then a 23-year-old fashion student, in the final days of the referendum. Grimes spent the entirety of the money with AggregateIQ.

Separately to the money it donated to Grimes, Vote Leave spent £2.7m, around 40% of its total spending of £6.7m, with AggregateIQ. As the designated leave campaigning organisation, its spending was capped by law at £7m.

Grimes, as chair of a different campaign group called BeLeave, had a spending cap of £700,000 and spent £675,000 in total. The source of £625,000 of this money was Vote Leave.

It has also emerged that a millionaire hedge fund manager, Anthony Clake donated £50,000 to Darren Grimes - money that also went to AggregateIQ - having been advised to make the donation by the Brexit-backing campaign group Vote Leave.

Clake told the Guardian that he had intended to give the money to Vote Leave, as the official leave campaign, but was encouraged by the group not to do so because “they were close to their spending limits”.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Clake.

If we value our democratic processes we must ensure that nobody is able to circumvent the rules so as to buy the result they wanted. The inquiries by the Electoral Commission and the ICO therefore must be allowed to go ahead unimpeded and they should have all the sanctions they need at their disposal if wrong-doing is proven.
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