Leave.EU and Arron Banks insurance firm face £135,000 in fines

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The U.K. data commissioner has fined a campaign backing Britain's departure from the European Union and an insurance company founded by its millionaire backer a total of 135,000 pounds ($176,000) for breaches of data laws.

Leave.EU and an insurance company owned by the campaign group's founder Arron Banks are facing fines of £60,000 each.

"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".

Leave.EU was also fined 15,000 pounds for a separate breach in which nearly 300,000 emails were sent to Eldon customers with a newsletter for the Brexit campaign group.

It added: "But Leave.EU did explore creating a new organisation, called Big Data Dolphins, with a view to collecting and analysing large quantities of data for political purposes".

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it had issued "notices of intent" to Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance for "serious breaches" of Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

Banks played down the announcement.

Hitting back on Twitter, Banks appeared to dismiss the seriousness of the claims, writing: "Gosh we communicated with our supporters and offered then a 10% Brexit discount after the vote!"

Banks dismissed the findings, tweeting "we may have accidentally sent a newsletter to customers..."

The Vote Leave campaign has been fined and reported to the police by the UK's elections regulator for deliberately falsifying its campaign expenses for the Brexit referendum.

Both Denham and her office's report indicated that the United Kingdom was at a cross-roads in terms of the use of data in political campaigning but warned that tighter regulation of tech firms was "quite controversial and the need to balance freedom of expression with the harms of the internet is hard", she told MPs.

It was announced last week that the National Crime Agency is probing his alleged use of offshore companies to finance Leave.EU.

Giving evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into disinformation and fake news on Tuesday, Denham voiced "concerns about ongoing misuse of personal data" at Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance.

The fines "could be significantly higher under data protection law if we find misdeeds", she told the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee.

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