December 09, 2019

Article at The Inquirer

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The Open Rights Group wants answers on General Election data use

The Open Rights Group wants answers on General Election data use
Just four days until the politicking stops...

EVERY TIME YOU THINK this General Election campaign can't go any lower, you find a whole new depth for politics to sink towards.

Today, it's the Open Rights Group's (ORG) turn to make a scene, and because they attack Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats equally, you shouldn't expect any of the parties to try and make political capital from it.

The group has threatened legal action against all three parties on behalf of three individuals who asked for their data and who were left underwhelmed by the responses.

"These political parties had created individualised scores such as their age, whether they support Brexit, and their social status, such as 'metropolitan elite' or 'soft Tory,' the release explains, adding this often relies upon third-party data brokers.

"The parties have also been accused of failing to be transparent about who they have shared this data with, including political campaigning consultancies."

Amongst the tidbits released by the group is the fact that Conservatives used personal names and addresses to guess the age of one of the claimants. The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, failed to disclose the source of third-party data in response to the Subject Access Request (SAR). Labour's data, on the other hand, was "unintelligible" as well as being later than allowed in the statutory regulations.

At least two of the parties, ORG says, seem to have added email addresses from local election registers, the kind which has come from online voter registration tools.

To be fair to Labour and the Conservatives, neither mentioned data privacy in the manifestos when we looked at them last week. The Lib Dems did though.

"Parties seem to consider themselves as having a free pass to do as they want with personal data as they consider this in the democratic interest," said Ravi Naik, from ITN Solicitors, which is representing the claimants. "However, the data protection regime exists to limit data use to prevent abuses. The democratic interest is best served by all Parties respecting the law."

We'd be very surprised if the parties responded before Thursday's election, but maybe we'll have a better response before the next one - be it 2024 or (gulp) a snap 2020 poll. µ

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