Tech

Brexit campaign group and backers face £135K in data misuse fines

LONDON — The U.K. data watchdog plans to fine the Brexit campaign group Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance — the company owned by Arron Banks, a top donor to the unofficial campaign — for “serious breaches” of electronic marketing laws.

The Information Commissioners Office said in a report it would fine Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance £60,000 each for breaching privacy and electronic communications law. A separate £15,000 fine is due to be levied against Leave.EU for sending emails to Eldon customers with Leave.EU newsletters.

U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denhams investigation into the use of data during the European Union referendum in 2016 found more than 1 million emails had been sent to Leave.EU subscribers over two separate periods.

These emails included marketing for “GoSkippy” services — the trading name of the Eldon Insurance company, owned by Leave.EU founder and donor Arron Banks. Almost 300,000 emails were also sent to Eldon Insurance customers containing a Leave.EU newsletter.

Denham said she is also investigating allegations Eldon Insurance shared customer data with the Leave.EU campaign.

The revelation came in an Information Commission report probing the use of data in the European Union referendum, published on Tuesday. It said it has uncovered “disturbing disregard for voters personal privacy” and “significant issues, negligence and contraventions of the law.”

Denham also said she has issued “assessment notices” to the three main credit reference agencies — Experian, Equifax and Call Credit — and is in the process of conducting audits. Assessment notices have also been issued to data brokers Acxiom Ltd, Data Locator Group Ltd and GB Group PLC, the report said.

“Serious breaches of data protection” by Cambridge Analytica — the data analytics firm which used personal information harvested from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without permission — had been identified, and a “substantial fine” would have been issued to the company if it was not in administration, Denhams 112-page dossier also said.

The report was published ahead of Denhams appearance in front of a select committee hearing with MPs on Tuesday.

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