Mississippi judge dismisses lawsuit involving University, data transfer

Posted on Jul 10 2018 - 7:00am by Taylor Vance

A lawsuit alleging that data had been illegally obtained from the U.K. and transferred to the data research department at the University of Mississippi has been dismissed by a Hinds County Chancery Court judge. The lawsuit was filed against Big Data Dolphins Ltd. and Eldon Insurance Co. by the U.K.-based Fair Vote Project in the aftermath of 2016’s Brexit vote.

Sterling Kidd, the lawyer representing Big Data Dolphins and Eldon Insurance said he was pleased with the dismissal and that the ruling speaks for itself.

“The order reflects the truth,” Kidd said. “No personal data has been transferred to Mississippi. The companies’ intent was to work with students about insurance. We have a politically motivated and factually-meritless lawsuit.”

The allegation of mishandled data stemmed from former Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser’s testimony before the British House of Commons that Big Data Dolphins created its own version of Cambridge Analytica’s system and stored private citizens’ data at Ole Miss.

“(Data executives) have told multiple individuals that they took my proposal and copied it and they created their own Cambridge Analytica, which they called Big Data Dolphins in partnership with the data science department at the University of Mississippi,” Kaiser said earlier this year.

In February 2018, Big Data Dolphins signed a lease agreement with the University of Mississippi Research Foundation with Eldon Insurance Co. as the guarantor. The lease agreement was for 48 months with an annual rent of $78,000 per year and $6500 per month.

It was later revealed that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant used his relationships with several British officials to connect the two companies with the University of Mississippi.

Phil Bryant pictured on the Ole Miss campus in 2017 with Lord Michael Ashcroft, left, Andy Wigmore, and Arron Banks, who provided funding for the Brexit campaign.

Vice Chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs Josh Gladden testified that Ole Miss never received any data, despite the company having a lease agreement with university at Insight Park.

“The result of this investigation is, to our satisfaction, that there’s been no data transfer between any of the companies and the University of Mississippi,” Gladden said.

The lawyers representing the Fair Vote Project still allege that data was illegally transferred to the University of Mississippi and are “very disappointed” in the judge’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit. Dorsey Carson, representing the Fair Vote Project, said based on this investigation it is impossible to say whether or not data had been transferred.

“No forensics search was ever conducted (on the research servers) by Ole Miss,” Carson said. “(Gladden’s) testimony is self-defeating because there were emails exchanged about Big Data Dolphins (by Ole Miss officials).”

Carson said he has filed a public records request for the emails, but the university has not complied with his request. Carson said he would be forced to pursue legal action against the university if it chooses not to comply.

Kidd said the claim that no investigation had been conducted at Ole Miss is “completely false.”

Carson also said he believes the data was transferred to research servers at Mississippi State University and has filed a public records request for emails about the companies at their university.

The University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University did not respond to requests for an interview about the latest developments in the lawsuit.