Regulators have imposed £135,000 (Dh649,000) worth of fines on Brexit-backing businessman Arron Banks and the Leave.EU campaign over serious breaches of electronic marketing regulations
Britain’s Information Commissioners Office said it had evidence that showed email accounts held by Mr Bank’s Eldon Insurance were accessed by Leave.EU staff who used the addresses to “unlawfully” spam political messages.
As part of its campaign, Leave.EU built up a network of subscribers who consented to receive information. However, on two occasions Leave.EU sent emails that promoted Eldon Insurance, trading as Go Skippy, and discount offers. From 25 February to 31 July 2017 1,069,852 emails were sent to Leave.EU supporters marketing GoSkippy and its services.
The ISO said both Eldon and Leave.EU would be fined £60,000 (Dh288,000) each. The latter was also slapped with another £15,000 (Dh72,000) hit over a separate transgression that involved Eldon customers incorrectly receiving a Leave.EU newsletter because of a system error. Eldon will now be audited thoroughly by the ICO to ensure changes had been made customer data was more secure in the future.
In response, Leave.EU said: “All of our companies take data protection extremely seriously. We also look forward to hearing more about the alleged sale of personal data to the official Remain campaign, Britain Stronger in Europe, by the Liberal Democrats.”
It comes at a time of increased pressure on Mr Banks over allegations the true source of £8 million in loans to Leave EU. He has also faced scrutiny over multiple meetings he held with Russian officials in London over previous years.
“Gosh we communicated with our supporters and offered them a 10% Brexit discount after the vote! So what?” Mr Banks tweeted.
It follows a wider investigation into political campaigns misusing personal data.
“We have concerns about the overall management of personal data within (Eldon) particularly about the arrangements for sharing personal data handled by the company and its associated entities,” the report said.
“We have evidence to show that some customers’ personal data, in the form of email addresses, held by Eldon was accessed by staff working for Leave.EU and was used to unlawfully send political marketing messages,” it added.
Both Leave.EU and Cambridge Analytica, the now defunct British consulting firm that collected information on Facebook users, have also previously admitted exploring the possibilities of working together. The ICO found no evidence they had worked together other than the preliminary talks previously mentioned.