Data watchdog trains sights on UK political parties after record fine for Facebook

Posted On: 
11th July 2018

Parliament's information watchdog has vowed to review the data practices of UK political parties after they slapped Facebook with a record fine over a scandal-hit campaign firm.

The ICO has written to the 11 main UK parties
PA Images

The Information Commissioner issued the social media giant with a £500,000 maximum penalty for failing to ensure now-defunct political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had deleted users’ data.

And it ordered Aggregate IQ (AIQ) - another political ad firm that worked with the Vote Leave campaign on the EU referendum - to stop processing the data of UK citizens.

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The ICO launched a probe into the use of data by political parties in the wake of allegations Cambridge Analytica illicitly harvested Facebook information for unauthorised use.

It found Facebook breached its own rules by failing to ensure the UK company had deleted the data, and it vowed to bring criminal action against SCL elections - the parent firm of Cambridge Analytica.

But the ICO also trained its sights on other political parties - raising concerns about the purchase of information from “data brokers” who may not have obtained the necessary consent.

The watchdog has written to the 11 main political parties in the UK demanding access to audit their data protection practices.

It raised particular concern about a broker called Emma’s Diary - which has been used by the Labour party - noting worries about how transparent the firm had been about its political activity.

Emma’s Diary offers medical advice to pregnant women as well as gift packs after babies are born.

Elsewhere, the ICO said it was looking into whether AIQ had accessed voter data handed over by Vote Leave from outside the UK and whether that would amount to a data protection breach.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “We are at a crossroads. Trust and confidence in the integrity of our democratic processes risk being disrupted because the average voter has little idea of what is going on behind the scenes.”

She added: “New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters.

“But this cannot be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law.”