Arron Banks' Brexit campaign group warned of fines for data misuse

Blanche Robertson
November 9, 2018

The ICO has fined Brexit campaign group Leave.EU and an insurance company owned by Leave.EU's main funder, Arron Banks, £135,000 ($176,000) for breaching United Kingdom data laws.

Leave.EU faces a £15,000 fine after nearly 330,000 customers of Eldon, which trades as GoSkippy, were sent an email containing a Leave.EU newsletter, according to the ICO.

It said it was also investigating allegations that Eldon shared customer data obtained for insurance purposes with Leave.EU.

The ICO also warned that Leave.EU and the insurance company face fines of £60,000 each in relation to the sending of more than 1 million emails to Leave.EU subscribers which included GoSkippy marketing material.

In a major report published by the UK's Information Commissioner on Tuesday, Elizabeth Denham confirmed that a Leave.EU newsletter was sent to more than 319,000 email addresses on Banks' Eldon Insurance company database in the run up to the referendum.

Banks played down the announcement.

Caption: FILE PHOTO: Gerry Gunster (L), a Washington-based strategist hired by the Leave.EU campaign, speaks as he sits with Arron Banks, a British businessman, during a Leave.EU news conference in central London, Britain November 18, 2015.

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"The ICO find no evidence of a grand data conspiracy and find we may have accidentally sent a newsletter to customers", he said on Twitter.

Denham's deputy, James Dipple-Johnstone, said the watchdog also had 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.

Banks, nicknamed Bankski by mischievous campaigners, has faced questions about his relationship with Russian Federation and funding discrepancies in multiple Brexit campaigns.

Meanwhile, Denham has called on the government to offer the United Kingdom a data privacy regime "fit for objective in the digital age, warning that voluntary moves by online company are not enough to solve the problem".

"We found no evidence that Big Data Dolphins ever actually functioned, and no evidence that Leave.EU, Eldon or any associated companies had transferred any personal data relating to United Kingdom citizens to the UoM".

It followed the discovery of evidence that some Eldon customers' personal data had been used by Leave.EU to unlawfully distribute political marketing messages, the ICO said.

"The sharing of information has gone both ways" at Banks' businesses, she added, and "the fines could be significantly higher" if further "misdeeds" were uncovered.

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