back to article Privacy group asks UK politicos to pinky swear not to use personal data for electioneering

UK political parties have been urged not to use a "legal loophole" that would allow them to process personal data revealing people's opinions on politics. Campaign group Privacy International has written to politicians calling on them to remember their "vehement concerns" about the exploitation of people’s personal data when …

  1. Crisp Silver badge

    So essentially we're relying on politicians being ethical and doing the right thing...

    That's always worked out so well before and I see no reason why there should be any problems this time.

    1. Kane Silver badge

      Re: So essentially we're relying on politicians being ethical and doing the right thing...

      "That's always worked out so well before and I see no reason why there should be any problems this time."

      If you could just step over here sir, I have just recently acquired the rights to sell this bridge!

      Why yes, you can have it in any colour you want!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My personal opinion

    ... is that politicians are all &*^%s.

    I hereby give my permission that this information may be freely shared by all.

    1. dave 81

      Re: My personal opinion

      Ditto, bunch of lying bastards.

  3. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
    Black Helicopters

    It's your Count that Votes...

    Good luck to anyone trying to use my online behaviour to work out how I will vote - I'm not quite sure how they will convert discussions on whether orbital mass drivers and god-rods or Near-C rocks are the best way to negotiate with Ine Givar, or what my Slightly Domesticated Attack Felines are doing, or how many ways my fellow humans have to FUBAR, into a usable guide to how I choose where to make my mark on the ballot paper...

    Still, at least while they are busy doing that, it's stopping them getting up to other mischief...

    1. cosmogoblin

      Re: It's your Count that Votes...

      not.known, your post makes a lot of sense. Trouble is, this falls down in practice, on two points:

      (1) Researchers discovered (years ago) that with just 150 "likes" on Facebook, they can predict your behaviour more accurately than your spouse. I suspect that just from the language, phrasing and grammar of your posts, they can get a pretty good idea of your voting preferences.

      (2) Much more importantly, people like CA don't care about you. They only care about the majority. Not even that, in a parliamentary democracy - they just need to identify a sufficient number of potential swing voters. They might never have heard of you, or processed a single byte of information about you - but when they swing 5% of the electorate to favour the party you despise, you've still got to put up with the election results.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: It's your Count that Votes...

      Dear not.known@this.address,

      We promise to increase funding for science and technology, to promote the UK's international partnerships regarding space exploration and to improve the breadth of science education in schools. We also believe the national culture will greatly benefit from an enhancement of science-fiction literature, RPGs and video games.


      All political parties

      PS. We also love cats.

  4. macjules Silver badge

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Asking a politician not to use something to help their electioneering is a bit like asking a dog not to pee on a lamppost.

    1. handleoclast Silver badge

      Re: What could possibly go wrong?

      Asking a politician not to use something to help their electioneering is a bit like asking a dog not to pee on a lamppost.

      You can change the behaviour of the dog by wiring the lamppost to an electric fencing unit. I'm not sure what the equivalent is for politicians, but feel free to experiment.

  5. }{amis}{ Silver badge
    Big Brother

    One rule

    For them and another for the rest of us.......

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Political opinions

    I don't mind revealing my political opinions - it basically boils down to:

    Drown all the fucking politicians at birth!

    There, simple - and, afterwards, life will be much easier for the rest of us.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Drown all the fucking politicians at birth!

      If we knew who the politicians were at birth, there would be no politicians.

  7. tiggity Silver badge

    Good luck on targeting me

    As I'm unimpressed with all the parties I get a "choice" of voting for, some I despise more than others, but in my constituency on voting numbers each election it's essentially a 2 horse race between Lab & Con (as vote share of other parties is negligible) and as there is no form of PR then even if another minority party had a (IMO) great manifesto my vote would achieve nothing.

    So, given that brexit is arguably the main political issue of the time, a choice between pro brexit or pro brexit, so not much of a choice on the key issue if you would quite like to have hassle free trade with Europe as that helps pay your wages!

    BTW I'm not a lib dem fan either (I do want some form of PR as would like some hope of my views getting reflected, but lib dems shown not to be trusted e.g. coalition with Con & happily binning their pledges on uni fees so pointless to look at their manifesto as they will ditch it to ares lick whoever they coalition with if the chance arises)

    1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

      Re: Good luck on targeting me

      If you want some colour in your life, move to Northern Ireland.

      There, in addition to the joys of Buckfast, you get to choose between the Democratic Unionist Party (Arlene Foster and friends — colour Black with a few washed-in bloodspots), Ulster Unionist Party (No idea who leads it — colour Orange with a few washed-in bloodspots), Social Democratic and Labour Party ( Colum Eastwood et al. — colour pale Green), Sinn Fein ( Mary Lou McDonald — colour balaclava Green with a few washed-in bloodspots) as well as a few other smaller, but surely no less interesting parties.

    2. Mike 137

      Re: Good luck on targeting me

      What you lament is not a new problem. See G K Chesterton's essay "The Voter and the Two Voices" published in "A Miscellany of Men", Methuen, 1912.

      When pestered by canvassers I typically resort to quoting Shakespeare: "A plague on both your houses. They have made worm's meat of me." (Mercutio, Romeo and Juliet Act 1 scene 3). That usually causes them to leave without further ado, and I don't think that response would be an unduly useful data point their voter statistics.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Privacy group asks UK politicos

    to which the politicos say... nothing.

    Well, in alternative universe, politicos say they ALWAYS protect their voters in EVERY possible way, and then carry on abusing and breaking the law as they see fit. But that's alternative universe, here they just mumble-muble at best. Take your pick.

  9. davenewman

    How can we do canvassing if we cannot record political opinions

    The normal way to campaign is to knock on your door and ask who you are considering to vote for. Then on polling day we remind our potential voters that it is polling day, have you voted yet?

    That is a fundamental part of democracy in our voting systems. The purpose of political parties is to persuade people to vote for their candidate and then get people voting rather than staying at home. To do that, the small band of unpaid volunteers knocking on doors needs to know who is persuadable and who doesn't want to waste their time or that of the volunteers.

    So a promise not to collect data on political preferences is pointless. It is fundamental to party politics and democratic voting systems.

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: How can we do canvassing if we cannot record political opinions

      Harassing people to vote is not a fundamental part of democracy. Nor is harassing people at polling stations. At the last elections I had to get the local returning officer to remove the party workers who were threatening potential voters with doorstepping until they voted.

      All due to the returning officer, I was expecting to be fobbed off but he turned up within 10 minutes and read them the riot act.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    an exemption that allows registered parties to process personal data "revealing political opinions" for the purposes of their political activities.

    Coming up soon: the registration of the Cambridge Analytica Party and others.

  11. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    So, if as part of my election campaign I put out a survey or knock on doors asking "which party are you likely to support at next year's election?" and residents return that to me, I'm not allowed to use it? So, how the hell do candidates wanting people to vote for them find out if people want to vote for them if they are not allowed to remember what voting intention people have told them?

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      No. What Politicians want (and look like getting) is the ability to collect data by stealth, for example by dodgy Facebook apps or buying it in from Experian.

      Nobody is suggesting an inability to canvas opinions. The amendment would just require them to gain consent like everyone else has to.

  12. nsld

    Post Brexit adequacy decision?

    As the government keep harping on about a 'deep and special' relationship with the EU27 and in particular over data sharing for businesses after we lob ourselves off the cliff you would think they would factor that into the legislation they are drafting.

    Regaining sovereignty is going to look a bit weak when they have to bin the parts for political processing without consent, or denying rights regarding data relating to immigration decisions or dubious retention/sharing practices when the EU tells them to for an adequacy decision.

    As for the planned implementation of Customs Union New Technology (or as its nicknamed 'Farage' ) on the Irish border, the requirement for an adequacy decision is significant.

  13. John Watts

    The worst exemption ever

    I really don't get why political parties should be entitled to this exemption when a company selling widgets isn't. A political party is trying to sell you their vision of a brighter tomorrow and the widget company is trying to sell you the best widget for you. At least with the widget you have some rights if you've been mis-sold; with political parties you just get to be disappointed again in another half a decade.

    If anything parties should be banned from using personal information more strongly than anyone else. They should succeed or fail on the strength of their beliefs and policies. All this will do is legitimize what was scandalous behaviour by CA. Swing voters are going to be bullied and harassed by all of the parties at every election, not just online with insidious adverts but also on their doorsteps.

    One final consideration, maybe you're a young gay male who's keeping it secret from his family who happen to be of a very conservative religious background and the newly formed Gay Party show up on your doorstep to see if they can count on your vote.

    Giving parties a right to process personal data so they can tailor their lies to you precisely is just about the worst exemption that could be put on the books.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: The worst exemption ever

      Because the law is written by politicians, duh.

      Exemptions in laws are bad. Period. There are no exceptions to this rule.

      If the police can justify battering down your door because $REASONS, then an ordinary citizen should be able to cite the same reasons to justify it. If journalists are allowed to take pictures and record conversations, then so are we all. If censors are allowed to watch porn and snuff movies, then so should we all be.

      Any time you see a named group that's allowed to do something that's forbidden to everyone else, another little bit of our freedom has died. Sometimes quite a big bit.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: The worst exemption ever

        Please may I vote for Veti to be my MP.

  14. Djdj

    my experience of "ethical" MPs

    A couple of years ago got junk mailed by my MP(labour), despite parliamentary guidelines saying people on the mail preference list(I am) should not be junked mailed by MPs

    Complained to parliamentary (lack of!!!) standards , was informed no such guidelines

    Emailed back my copy of the parliamentary guidelines, standards claimed they had forgotten about them !!!

    Also my MP was putting "junk mail" clauses in his emails . I FOI d parliamentary standards asking how may MPs where doing this. It was claimed this information "was not available".

    Later the Head of the House of commons (presumably Conservative) was criticising charities use of data, I informed him of the above , so he could put his own house in order. I got no reply

    I have had other disagreements with my MP and was informed that dealings between me and him are confidential,

    So I have formed a suitable opinion of MPs.

    I will leave you to guess what it is

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      It's ten years or so since I was involved in canvassing and leafletting, but the database$ we used has "do not mail", "do not phone"*, "do not email"# flags, and if you ask not to be mailed/phoned/emailed the flags should be set and you should not be sent anything addressed to you. However, it's impossible to stop you being sent unaddressed literature as it has no address on it so it's impossible to remove the literature that's addressed to you as it isn't addressed to you.

      *should be set automatically via the monthly TPS update

      #as i understand the GDPR should now be automatically opted out until you provide an email address and tick the 'yes I'd like emails' or don't tick the 'don't send me emails' box.

      $tho' the current system is so user-unfriendly compared to what we used ten years ago, whenever I have to use it I end up running away in frustration for so long my password expires.

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