Political attitudes to ePrivacy – this goes deep

With the rushing through of privacy-intrusive legislation under highly questionable procedures, it almost seems wrong to bang on about political parties and their approach to ePrivacy and marketing, but a) much better people have written on the #DRIP bill, and b) I think the two issues are not entirely unrelated.

Last week I was taking issue with Labour’s social media campaign which invited people to submit their email address to get a number relating to when they were born under the NHS.

Today, prompted by a twitter exchange with the excellent Lib Dem councillor James Baker, in which I observed that politicians and political parties seem to be exploiting people’s interest in discrete policy issues to harvest emails, I looked at the Liberal Democrats’ home page. It really couldn’t have illustrated my point any better. People are invited to “agree” that they’re against female genital mutilation, by submitting their email address.


There’s no information whatsoever about what will happen to your email address once you submit it. So, just as Labour were, but even more clearly here, the Lib Dems are in breach of the The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 and the Data Protection Act 1998. James says he’ll contact HQ to make them aware. But how on earth are they not already aware? The specific laws have been in place for eleven years, but the principles are much older – be fair and transparent with people’s private information. And it is not fair (in fact it’s pretty damn reprehensible) to use such a bleakly emotive subject as FGM to harvest emails (which is unavoidably the conclusion I arrive at when wondering what the purpose of the page is).

So, in the space of a few months I’ve written about the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems breaching eprivacy laws. If they’re unconcerned about or – to be overly charitable – ignorant of these laws, then is it any wonder that they railroad each other into passing “emergency” laws (which are anything but) with huge implications for our privacy?

UPDATE: 13.07.14

Alistair Sloan draws attention to the Scottish National Party’s website, which is similarly harvesting emails with no adequate notification of the purposes of future use. The practice is rife, and, as Tim Turner says in the comments below, the Information Commissioner’s Office needs to take action.



Filed under consent, Data Protection, PECR, Privacy, transparency

7 responses to “Political attitudes to ePrivacy – this goes deep

  1. Tim Turner

    Not only have the specific laws been in place for 11 years, the LibDems (like Labour, the Conservatives and the SNP) have had enforcement action take against them for breaching PECR. They all know. I think they’re hungry for data because they hope to turn that data into donations. They’ll all keep doing it until the Information Commissioner enforces, or the headlines become problematic for them.

  2. this is all about good data governance practice. Clearly, all the major parties are failing in this regard. Investment required, trust built, reputation restored. (Maybe).

    In the meantime, keep the pressure up by publishing their failures and holding them to account. Great work.

  3. Pingback: Big Political Data | informationrightsandwrongs

  4. This email address harvesting is exactly what has led people to have many email addresses and “personas” on the Internet. It is a fact that all those forums and newspapers who want people to use their “real names” when commenting are getting nick names that sound like real names, but not necessarily any higher rate of “true” names as e.g. found in a person’s passport. While I am certainly very concerned about privacy issues, I think there is no reason to think people react differently now than they used to react under oppressive dictatorships in the past: they dodge every painful issue by lying so artfully that the system thinks they are following all the rules to a “T”.

  5. Pingback: UKIP Dartford and data protection compliance | informationrightsandwrongs

  6. Pingback: Online privacy – a general election battleground | informationrightsandwrongs

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