ICO Fines Brexit Campaign and Key Backer £120K

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has fined Leave.EU and an insurance company owned by Brexit backer Arron Banks £120,000 for serous data protection failings.

The UK’s privacy watchdog claimed that segregation of data between the two closely linked companies was insufficient, meaning data collected by Eldon Insurance on its customers was used to bombard them with online messages backing the leave vote.

The reverse was also true, with Leave.EU subscribers sent marketing missives from Eldon Insurance without having given adequate consent.

Leave.EU was fined £15,000 for illegally sending nearly 300,000 political marketing messages, while both Leave.EU (£45,000) and Eldon Insurance (£60,000) were fined for sending nearly one million emails to Leave.EU subscribers, according to the ICO.

“It is deeply concerning that sensitive personal data gathered for political purposes was later used for insurance purposes; and vice versa. It should never have happened,” said information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, in a statement.

“We have been told both organizations have made improvements and learned from these events. But the ICO will now audit the organizations to determine how they are using customers’ personal information.”

The formal assessments by the ICO will cover data protection practices, staff training and other processes for the two organizations, which share offices.

Eldon Insurance was also served an ICO enforcement notice ordering the firm to comply with electronic marketing regulations.

Rumors of illegality have swirled around the Brexit referendum campaign for years.

Leave.EU is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA), referred by the Electoral Commission, after suspicions that Banks was not the source of a multi-million pound donation as he has claimed.

The money is said to have come from one of his subsidiaries in the Isle of Man, which is illegal under UK election law.

MPs have called for the Brexit process to be suspended until the outcome of these allegations of multiple criminal offenses.

Thus far, Prime Minister, Theresa May has resisted calls for a Robert Mueller-like investigation into possible Russian interference in the referendum, despite mounting concerns over the role of firms like AIQ in targeting voters, spending irregularities and Russian social media misinformation.

A grass roots campaign, Fair Vote, is looking to mount a legal challenge to force a public inquiry.

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