As expected, the scandal involving the UK data-mining company, Cambridge Analytica, has moved on to its unofficial Canadian affiliate, AggregateIQ. This obscure, low profile firm in the provincial town of Victoria, British Colombia, played a surprisingly active role in the United Kingdom’s 2016 referendum on its continued membership of the European Union. It carried out undisclosed work for the rabidly anti-EU Democratic Unionist Party, which itself launched an expensive advertising blitz in London and several other cities on behalf of the so-called Leave side. The funding for that campaign was channelled through the DUP by the Constitutional Research Council, a mysterious right-wing body in Britain. However where the CRC sourced that “dark money” remains unknown thanks to the legislative intervention of the ruling Conservative Party government, at the insistence of their parliamentary allies, the Democratic Unionists.
Cambridge Analytica has undisclosed links to the Canadian digital firm AggregateIQ that played a pivotal role in the official Vote Leave campaign in 2016, which was headed by the environment secretary Michael Gove and the foreign secretary Boris Johnson…
Christopher Wylie, the former Cambridge Analytica employee turned whistleblower, has revealed that as well as playing a part in setting up the firm – which is now facing increasing scrutiny from investigators on both sides of the Atlantic over its role in harvesting Facebook data – he was also a central figure in setting up AIQ, which accounted for 40% of Vote Leave’s campaign budget.
Although AIQ and Cambridge Analytica appeared separate, the two were bound by a skein of threads so intimate that some Cambridge Analytica staff referred to the Canadian data firm as a “department” within the company. Wylie said that the two businesses shared the same underlying technology.
“AIQ wouldn’t exist without me,” he said. “When I became research director for SCL [the parent company of Cambridge Analytica] we needed to rapidly expand our technical capacity and I reached out to a lot of people I had worked with in the past.”
That included Jeff Silvester, his former boss, who lived in Wylie’s home town – Victoria in British Columbia…
He then set up AIQ with his business partner, Zack Massingham, to work on SCL and later Cambridge Analytica projects. “Essentially it was set up as a Canadian entity for people who wanted to work on SCL projects who didn’t want to move to London. That’s how AIQ got started: originally to service SCL and Cambridge Analytica projects,” said Wylie.
The figure of Michael Gove is an important one here. As well as serving as one of the leaders of the official Vote Leave campaign during the plebiscite in 2016, the Tory MP and minister is a close ally of the DUP, and like them, a fierce opponent of the Irish-British peace process of the 1990s and early 2000s. Of late, he has been at the forefront of those inside prime minister Theresa May’s Balkanised administration fighting any comprise deal with Dublin and Brussels over the UK imposition of a “hard border” in Ireland. If such a divisive and inevitably militarised frontier comes about, it will be in no small part due to his malign influence.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 News in Britain has broadcast its own closely related investigation into the covert activities of AggregateIQ during the Brexit referendum.