Facebook reportedly suspends AggregateIQ over connection to improper data-sharing

AggregateIQ, a Canadian advertising tech and audience intelligence company, has been suspended by Facebook for allegedly being closely connected with SCL, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, reported the National Observer.

News broke late last month that AIQ, which was deeply involved with (and handsomely paid by) pro-Leave Brexit groups, was not the independent Canadian data broker it claimed to be. Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who blew the lid off the Cambridge Analytica story, explained it candidly to The Guardian:

Essentially it was set up as a Canadian entity for people who wanted to work on SCL projects who didn’t want to move to London. That’s how AIQ got started: originally to service SCL and Cambridge Analytica projects.

AIQ has maintained that it has operated independently. Dogged denials appear on its webpage:

AggregateIQ has never been and is not a part of Cambridge Analytica or SCL. Aggregate IQ has never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica. Chris Wylie has never been employed by AggregateIQ. AggregateIQ has never managed, nor did we ever have access to, any Facebook data or database allegedly obtained improperly by Cambridge Analytica.

But the reporting in the Guardian makes these claims hard to take seriously. For instance, a founding member was listed on Cambridge Analytica’s website as working at “SCL Canada,” the company had no website or phone number of its own for some time, and until 2016, AIQ’s only client was Cambridge Analytica. It really looks as if AIQ is simply a Canadian shell under which operations could be said to be performed independent of CA and SCL.

Whatever the nature of the connection, it was convincing enough for Facebook to put them in the same bucket. The company said in a statement to the National Observer:

In light of recent reports that AggregateIQ may be affiliated with SCL and may, as a result, have improperly received (Facebook) user data, we have added them to the list of entities we have suspended from our platform while we investigate.

That will put a damper on SCL Canada’s work for a bit — it’s hard to do social media targeting work when you’re not allowed on the premises of the biggest social network of them all. Note that no specific wrongdoing on AIQ’s part is suggested — it’s enough that it may be affiliated with SCL and as such may have had access to the dirty data.

I’ve asked both companies for confirmation and will update this post if I hear back.