Brexit campaign group Leave.EU and Arron Banks insurance firm fined £135,000 for breaking data laws
MPs told information commissioner has 'similar concerns' about the use of data for electronic marketing at Vote Leave, fronted by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove - with report due 'in a matter of weeks'
The Brexit campaign group bankrolled by Arron Banks and his insurance firm face being fined a total of £135,000 for breaking data laws.
The commissioner’s report states that Leave.EU and Eldon – trading as GoSkippy – were being fined £60,000 each for “serious breaches” of the law which governs electronic marketing.
More than 1 million emails sent to Leave.EU subscribers also included marketing for GoSkippy services without their consent, it says.
Leave.EU also faces a £15,000 fine for a separate “serious” breach after almost 300,000 emails were sent to Eldon customers containing a newsletter for the Brexit campaign group.
The looming fines are separate to the investigation of Mr Banks by the National Crime Agency (NCA) over suspicions of “multiple” criminal offences during the EU referendum campaign.
He and other leading pro-Brexit campaigners were referred to police by the Electoral Commission, which suggested Mr Banks was “not the true source” of £8m of donations.
Unveiling the conclusions of her investigation to a committee of MPs, Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, said the fines covered only electronic marketing regulations.
Answering criticism that the fines were low, she said a further audit was being carried out into the failure to separate data properly.
The fines “could be significantly higher under data protection law if we find misdeeds”, she told the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
James Dipple-Johnstone, her deputy, said they had “similar concerns” about the use of data for electronic marketing at Vote Leave, the official pro-Brexit campaign group led by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
“The investigation [into Vote Leave] is ongoing and we expect to be able to report in a matter of weeks,” he said.
It followed the revelation that an app had been used that allowed the disgraced data firm Cambridge Analytica to harvest the data of 87 million Facebook users around the world.
Ms Denham set out the scale of that ongoing probe, after her office seized servers, laptops, mobile phones and other devices from the firm and from whistleblowers.
Revealing her office is working though 52 billion pages of information, she told the committee: “It’s not that we need more information – we need the time to finish the inquiry we are doing.”
Ms Denham also backed a suggestion that her office be funded by a levy on tech companies, saying there was “merit” in the idea.
“Digital literacy and education, for instance, I do think there is a good idea for companies paying for it,” she said.
“A tech levy is a fine idea but how that is distributed is one for government.”
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