Sir Vince Cable has said the Cambridge Analytica data leak is yet another example of why Britain is wrong to walk away from the EU.
The Liberal Democrat leader said that the leak of millions of Facebook users’ personal details “plays into the arguments we’re currently having about the European Union” as the European Commission was the only international body standing up to the big tech firms.
It was reported at the weekend that a whistleblower had said that Cambridge Analytica, a firm which specialises in ‘psychographic profiling’ and targeting political campaigns, obtained the Facebook data of 50m US voters from a British firm which harvested it by offering “personality tests”.
Describing it as a “strange story”, Sir Vince told the Should I Stay or Should I Go conference in central London that it “highlighted… the extent to which the global economy is now dominated by a handful of extraordinarily large, powerful companies, of which Facebook’s one, together with Google and Apple and Amazon”.
He told the conference for EU citizens living in the UK: “It does pose the basic question of how nation states – Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the rest – are to deal with companies of this scale and importance, which can override national sovereignty in relation to their standards, in relation to the regulatory arrangements and particularly in relation to tax.
“And the one organisation at the moment which is actually coming to grips with these very large global corporations is the European Commission. And the work… suggests that at the moment there is only one organisation which actually understands the problem and is shaping up to deal with it.
“And it again raises the basic question about why is Britain wanting to walk away from a structure which protects our interest in quite fundamental ways.”
Elsewhere in his speech Sir Vince won loud applause from his overwhelmingly non-British audience that it was “bizarrely and frankly outrageous” that all Commonwealth citizens living in the UK had a vote but EU citizens did not.
“If you come from a Commonwealth country, and there are large numbers of Commonwealth countries, some of which have no connection with Britain whatever historically, like Mozambique and Cameroon, if you step off the plane from those countries you’re entitled to vote as a Commonwealth citizen,” he said.
“I think that’s right, I’m not against it, but it is bizarre and frankly outrageous that Commonwealth citizens have unrestricted rights to vote here but EU nationals don’t, and we should rectify that.”