December 04, 2019

Campaigners release tool for the public to discover the extent of political party profiling during general election.

WEDNESDAY 4 DECEMBER 2019                                                                                                        

Open Rights Group (ORG) have released a tool to help UK voters turn the tables on political parties, by seeing what personal data they hold on them.

Using rights under the General Data Protection Regulation, ORG has developed a tool that allows everyone to easily email the main political parties to find out what data they hold on them using their right of Subject Access. Normally, the bureaucratic process of submitting a Subject Access Request (SAR) and getting the correct wording for the request is extremely off-putting. Now, all a person needs is a photo ID that shows their identity and current voting address.

Up until now, most of the focus and blame when it comes to commercial use of data has been on companies, like Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. Political parties however, in their role as data controllers, are engaging in similar practices by trading and grading our personal data.

Facebook ads are just the end of a production line that begins with political parties buying electoral register datasets and then mixing them with commercial datasets and other forms of data.

ORG’s goal is for as many people as possible to submit requests in order to research what kind of information parties are holding about us. In addition, ORG intends this campaign will act as a deterrent: that getting a large number of SARs will put parties off from this practice.  

Pascal Crowe, Data and Democracy Project Officer for Open Rights Group, said: 

“In recent years our national politics has become increasingly focused on returning power to the people from politicians. This tool allows individuals to do just that in an effective, simple, non-partisan manner. 

During our own requests to political parties we have found that the parties have been buying up commercial datasets and using those to profile the political opinions of the electorate. This includes guessing where we stand on Brexit, taxation, housing, austerity; whether we are a pragmatic liberal, or our likelihood of swinging from one party to another. 

This is also based on demographic data that is deeply inaccurate. These inaccuracies may lead to whole sections of the population being excluded from democratic engagement by the political parties.

The use of data in politics creates a severe power imbalance between the public and those who govern them. Retrieving the data held on us goes some way to addressing that.”

Notes to Editors

You can find the tool here.

The tool sends a subject access request to every political party that has a sitting elected representative in a national or regional parliament or assembly. 

This means parties represented in the House of Commons, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish Assembly.

Information on what Open Rights Group staff has  found as a result of their requests for personal data can be accessed here.

The right of access is a right for all individuals under Article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulation to obtain information from data controllers. The specific wording of the Article is found below:

The data subject shall have the right to obtain from the controller confirmation as to whether or not personal data concerning him or her are being processed, and, where that is the case, access to the personal data and the following information:

(a)    the purposes of the processing;

(b)    the categories of personal data concerned;

(c)    the recipients or categories of recipient to whom the personal data have been or will be disclosed, in particular recipients in third countries or international organisations;

(d)    where possible, the envisaged period for which the personal data will be stored, or, if not possible, the criteria used to determine that period;

(e)    the existence of the right to request from the controller rectification or erasure of personal data or restriction of processing of personal data concerning the data subject or to object to such processing;

(f)    the right to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority;

(g)    where the personal data are not collected from the data subject, any available information as to their source;

(h)    the existence of automated decision-making, including profiling, referred to in Article 22(1) and (4) and, at least in those cases, meaningful information about the logic involved, as well as the significance and the envisaged consequences of such processing for the data subject.

For further information please contact Federica Dadone, Communication Officer for Open Rights Group, at press@openrightsgroup.org or 0207 0961079.

ENDS