March 06, 2020

Political parties deny true scale of using personal data for campaigning to Select Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The House of Lords Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee have received written evidence from the Liberal Democrats, Labour, and the Conservatives on their digital campaigning practices. Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2016, the legality and ethics of using personal data in political campaigning has been questioned. 

The parties provided several justifications for doing so. Specifically, Labour and the Conservatives stated that they rely upon the lawful basis of ‘democratic engagement’, which is in the public interest. Labour also claimed that the processing of personal data, including political opinions, was ‘absolutely necessary’ for modern political campaigning. By contrast, the Liberal Democrats said they do not process individual’s political opinions as part of their campaigning.  

Both Labour and the Lib Dems denied employing data brokers or companies that monitor the public’s online activity. The Conservatives denied using data brokers but admitted to using analytics provided by social media companies. Both of these statements are false or incomplete. Both Labour and the Conservatives employ Experian, a credit ratings agency, to provide profiles of voters. The Lib Dems employ CACI, which advertises its services as a “database of the UK population (that) is the most comprehensive in the industry with hundreds of pieces of information on each individual. It covers everything from contact details… financial products owned and charities supported through to media consumption, digital interaction and channel preferences.”

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

“Politcal parties think they can treat the public’s personal information as their plaything and justify that under public interest. They are wrong. Democratic engagement and electioneering are not the same.

The political parties are deliberately concealing the true extent of their use of personal data from the House of Lords and the public. These are weasel words, when they should be showing moral leadership.

Open Rights Group welcomes the Committee’s recognition of our call to investigate the political parties’ use of personal data.”  

Notes to Editors

For further information please contact Open Rights Group, at press@openrightsgroup.org or 0207 0961079.

Written evidence from the political parties to the Select Committee can be found here: 

https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/407/democracy-and-digital-technologies-committee/publications/ 

ENDS