B.C.’s incoming-information and privacy commissioner is on the front lines of an international investigation into the misappropriation of personal data for political use.
Michael McEvoy, who takes the B.C. job on April 1, has been seconded to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), where he is serving under his old boss and former B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.
“The new privacy commissioner in B.C. has been seconded to the UK information commissioner for the last six months and working diligently on this case,” current acting Information and Privacy Commissioner Drew McArthur told Global News.
McEvoy served previously as B.C.’s deputy information and privacy commissioner.
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Denham launched a formal British probe into the use of data analytics for political purposes last year. That investigation has taken on fresh significance in the wake of revelations political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica obtained and, without authorization, used the data of 50 million Facebook users in a bid to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election for Donald Trump.
On Thursday, UK media reported the ICO was stymied in an attempted raid of Cambridge Analytica’s office over delays in obtaining a warrant.
The investigation is also probing Victoria, B.C.-based data firm AggregateIQ, which was paid £4 million for its work on the successful Brexit “Leave” campaign, according to The Guardian.
According to the Guardian, Christopher Wylie, the whistler-blower at the centre of the Cambridge Analytica scandal has links to the firm, and first introduced it to Cambridge Analytica.
In an emailed statement, Aggregate IQ said it has never employed Christopher Wylie, and said it has “never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.”
“AggregateIQ has always been 100 per cent Canadian owned and operated. AggregateIQ works in full compliance within all legal and regulatory requirements in all jurisdictions where we operate,” it said.
McArthur said the UK work would serve McEvoy well when he returns to B.C.
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“He is going to be well informed as to what’s been going on between Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.”
B.C.’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) is charged with oversight regarding the province’s privacy laws, including the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act and Personal Information Protection Act.
McArthur said while McEvoy’s work probing Cambridge Analytica may not translate directly to that job in B.C., it will put him on the cutting edge of tech privacy issues.
“It is is going to have a lot of relevance to people and their social media accounts and how they manage their information on such accounts,” he said.
However there may be some crossover with the BC OIPC’s own investigation into Aggregate IQ. McArthur said his office is interested in data mining at the firm, and has asked it for detailed information on its practices, and says a report is coming in the next couple of months.
This story has been updated with a statement from AggregateIQ
-With files from Sean Boyonton
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