Political parties lie about use of personal data for campaigning to Select Committee

16th March 2020 / United Kingdom
Political parties lie about use of personal data for campaigning to Select Committee

By Robbert Woodward Truepublica Editor: The problem with politics today is that it’s becoming difficult to work out what is the truth on the one hand and misinformation, disinformation and an outright lie on the other. Right now, all three political parties are lying to a select committee who is attempting to find out what privacy breaches and what abuses of personal information were used in election campaigning. It was evident that the three main political parties in Britain have been using voter-profiling activities and their denials should be called out for what they truly are.

It is already known that campaigners use individualised scores on voters that had been created to build a profile of individuals. These scores included details on a persons age, sex, individual social status and whether they support Brexit. These scores are then banded into groups for targeting. The information comes from data brokers – the most well-known being Experian.

The system of data profiling is now so widespread it should be classed as a systemic abuse of privacy rights – just like the banks were systemically corrupt that led to financial meltdown. The touble is, is that if one party does it, its opposition is forced into competing. The Cambridge Analytica scandal that involved Facebook, American billionaires and the Tory establishment is key to understanding what is going on here.

And yet, under questioning, they continue to lie. You’ll read in the next paragraphs how these political parties use language to dilute and mitigate the truth so that the real scandal is kept contained.

OpenRightsgroup – the digitals rights campaigner reports that –  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:

“Political 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.”

It is not until electoral laws are made fit for modern-day purpose, that political parties and campaigners are made aware of the consequences of breaches and that some are made example of – that politics, in general, may start to operate on a fair, legal and level playing field. In other words, if you can go to prison for stealing a sandwich in Britain, it should be entirely possible to go to prison for deliberately assaulting democracy, which is a much worse crime.

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