Watchdog urged to examine Unionist parties’ voter profiling amid data use fears

CAMPAIGNERS are taking three political parties to the data privacy watchdog amid fears over how they use people’s personal data.

Four activists have filed complaints to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about the data profiling practices of Labour, the Tories and the LibDems, raising concerns about their position that any such profiling they consider necessary to win an election is permitted.

Their complaints ask the ICO, the UK’s data protection regulator, to confirm how far parties can go with the profiling.

The four complainants all gained access to their personal data in 2019, finding extensive reports seeking to profile, through a combination of commercial data and analytics, their political opinions on Brexit, taxation, housing, the Scottish Parliament and austerity, amongst others.

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In legal correspondence over the course of the year asking the parties why this data was necessary, the individuals were met with similar justifications from each. They said it was necessary to profile voters in this way to win seats and win elections and this was the test the parties needed to satisfy.

The individuals are concerned that this risks a race to the bottom for political parties in achieving their goals, leaving voters’ privacy at risk of significant intrusion.

Pascal Crowe, data and democracy project officer for Open Rights Group (ORG) and one of the complainants, said: “I doubt many people would find it necessary being racially profiled by the Conservatives. This complaint is designed to limit this kind of creepy and unethical behaviour.”

Matthew Rice, ORG’s Scotland director, and also a complainant, added: “One year on from the General Election and after months of discussions, we need to see clarity. The parties argue that as long as it helps them win seats, our personal data is fair game. That position is unacceptable.”

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