OTTAWA — An executive from the Canadian firm linked to a high-profile Facebook data breach fired back at the company’s critics Tuesday, accusing them of wild speculation and dishonesty about his company’s work and its connections to Cambridge Analytica, the scandal-plagued and bankrupt political consulting firm.
Jeff Silvester, the chief operating officer of AggregateIQ — a Victoria, B.C.-based company that develops software used by political campaigns — made his second appearance in front of the House of Commons privacy committee Tuesday morning, after an April appearance by Silvester and AggregateIQ CEO Zack Massingham led to criticism they had provided “totally false” testimony full of “complete fabrications” and left frustrated MPs considering contempt charges against the executives.
Tuesday morning’s meeting of the committee, which has been investigating the Facebook data breach and the scandal that followed it, kicked off in bad temper, however, when MPs realized that only Silvester was present and that Massingham had refused the committee’s summons to reappear.
Silvester said Massingham’s absence was due to personal health reasons and that he would “speak for AggregateIQ on all matters.”
NDP MP Charlie Angus said he was “very concerned” by Massingham’s absence; the CEO also failed to appear last month at a meeting of the U.K. parliament’s digital committee.
“You’ve clearly lawyered up and frankly the information you’ve provided is inadequate,” Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, regarding Massingham’s absence. The committee would consider referring the matter to the House for further sanctions, Erskine-Smith said.
Silvester was then left to do battle with MPs in a hearing that sometimes recaptured the hostility of the April meeting, such as when Liberal MP Frank Baylis accused the men of aiding and abetting crimes by creating tools for data harvesting and spoofing caller IDs. Both those tools, if used improperly, could be against the law in some countries but Silvester said they could also be completely benign.
Silvester said he was aware of privacy rules wherever the company worked in and abided by them.
“All I know is we didn’t do anything wrong,” said Silvester.
Silvester spent much of the meeting fending off previous accusations made by Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie, including that Silvester and his company “completely disregarded the concept of truth.” Wylie testified to the committee via videoconference in May.
Wylie claims AggregateIQ is directly affiliated with Cambridge Analytica, which is alleged to have improperly purchased data from a researcher for use in highly controversial political campaigns in both the U.K. and the U.S.
Wylie also told the committee that Silvester had said to him that some of the work in which AggregateIQ was involved was “totally illegal.” Silvester also denied that claim Tuesday.
“I believe he’s mistaken. It’s not a question of lying or not lying,” Silvester.
AggregateIQ is under investigation in the U.K. for allegedly being involved in a scheme to skirt spending limits while working for the Leave campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum. Wylie claimed the company was being used as a “money-laundering” operation between the official Leave campaign and a third-party organization.
Silvester denied the allegation and accused Wylie of …read more