back to article Data breach rumours abound as UK Labour Party locks down access to member databases

The UK's Labour Party has been forced to lock down access to membership databases and campaign tools over concerns the info was being sucked up by breakaway MPs, in a possible breach of data protection laws. The party's general secretary, Jennie Formby, yesterday said Labour had "become aware of a number of attempts to access …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reading through the article, you realize just how widely distributed personal details are within political parties (I don't believe this is exclusively a Labour issue - I suspect the Tories have similar issues and the LibDems are worse based on some of their past actions. I have no reason to believe the other parties are any better).

    I wonder if Labour will try and push this as a police issue, in the process exposing issues with their own processes and likely resulting in fines, or is it swept under the carpet in the same way it was when Momentum did the same thing a few years ago?

    It brings to mind asking a Russian work colleague who was in London for a training event whether he voted for Putin. His response was that you never commit your political support to paper - you know who will win and if they lose someone might question your choices.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think you'll find all parties are as bad as each other...even the relative newcomers like UKIP and the leave campaign...who should have done better given what they claimed they campaigned for.

      1. Claverhouse Bronze badge

        I cannot believe a man of such unquestioned probity as Nigel Farage could ever be guilty of the minutest of louche actions.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If this is those breakaway MPs I can't see this story gathering any momentum in mainstream press and I say that with a tinge of sadness.

    1. caffeine addict Silver badge
      Joke

      Of course it won't gain Momentum. They aren't part of Labour any longer.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Coat

        Yes, they'll just throw the story in the Corbin

  3. msknight Silver badge

    Nothing new

    Some years ago, each of their candidates was given a copy of the database for their leadership campaigns.

    I found out after receiving numerous unwanted SMS messages and called Labour HQ to get my mobile number taken off the database to stop the SMS texts, only to be told that it wouldn't change anything as the candidates each had a copy of the membership database. And I went off on one. I reported it to the commissioner but it went nowhere.

    I've long left the party and to hear something like this, doesn't surprise me. People just seem to have such a caviller attitude to privacy and people's data.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Nothing new

      As I understand it, there are lots of shennigans within Labour over database access. Allegations that Unions passed on their newly signed-up member lists to favoured candidates (Ed Miliband and then Corbyn) during the leadership campaigns, and only reported those new memebers to the Central party at the last minute. So that their candidates got a better go at it.

      I've also read that Corbyn's campaign kept the database after the first leadership election and used it as the basis of the Momentum mailing list. Though they may have been able to argue that they'd got consent from the people that went on that list, as people who actively joined their leadership campaign.

      Not that I'm suggesting this is just a Labour problem. The Conservatives used to be less organised, because local constituency parties were much more independent of Central Office - but I'd imagine that's changed in the new era of Facebook campaigning. I suspect we need a full invesitgation into what parties do with their data, but don't know if it will happen. Obviously we know about some of the stuff the leave campaign got up to (eg Dominic Cummings), but who's betting that the Remain campaign didn't grab data off all three main parties, as the leadership of all 3 were pro Remain. Actually didn't the Lib Dems get a slap on the wrist over that?

      The problem is also that the parties aren't that well funded, and have a lot of different people involved in campaigns. So I can imagine their systems are very shoddy, and loads of people have access. In the case of Labour for example the Unions can sign up members and register them - which is even more organisations with access. Plus all the volunteer campaigners - and whatever third party companies get signed up.

      1. Cederic

        Re: Nothing new

        re: "The problem is also that the parties aren't that well funded"

        The problem has nothing to do with funding and everything to do with the major parties being corrupt evil organisations that do their utmost to exploit the British people to perpetuate the wealth and power of their leaders.

        If there has been a breach of privacy then I hope that Labour and their former MPs are hauled into court and given a demonstration of why these things matter.

        1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

          Re: Nothing new - to perpetuate the wealth and power of their leaders.

          Yeah, that Corbyn has an allotment. Talk about privilege...

          Given that with a very few exceptions (Blair for instance) there are plenty of Conservatives who could probably buy up every single Labour MP, it seems fairly obvious that the doing the utmost is pretty one sided.

          And the electorate doesn't care, so good luck with getting anything done.

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: Nothing new - to perpetuate the wealth and power of their leaders.

            Given that with a very few exceptions (Blair for instance) there are plenty of Conservatives who could probably buy up every single Labour MP

            The entire shadow cabinet are millionaires. Millionaires in a party that is supposed to represent the working classes. If wealth is a problem, it's a problem there first.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nothing new

      I remember a few years ago (less than 5 so well within scope of data protection rules) hearing a Labour politician boasting that they knew exactly how everyone in their constituency was likely to vote as they had canvass records dating back decades .... sadly at the subsequent election they never came to my house as if they'd asked me "can we rely on your vote" I was going to ask for their data processing statement so I could see how long they intended to keep the data for before replying! I'm sure "canvass records fating back for decades" probably breaches rules on data retention.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Nothing new

        OTOH it was a politician boasting so best taken with a discount of, say, 100%. Certainly I've never had a politician canvassing here.

      2. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Nothing new

        Somehow that data would probably be considered grandfathered under some obscure loophole of some sort... Of course, supplementing/updating such data with data gleaned post Data Protection Act legislation would probably make it subject to the Act and hence subject to data retention rules. Another reason to BREXIT! EMPAAAAAHHHHHRRRR! Taking back controoooooool!

        *eyeroll* *slaps own hand for typing that*

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Nothing new

        In my constituency Labour knew how everybody was going to vote because the last Conservative voter was eaten during a peasant's revolt in the C14.

        1. Santa from Exeter

          Re: Nothing new

          Oh, you live in my Ward in Exeter as well :-)

          Labour could put up a three legged donkey (instead of the ususal 2 legged ass) and not only would it be elected, but there would be a petition for the Tories to return it's other leg!

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing new

        I have in the past been told by a local councillor who used to live near me that they new how people voted from that moment I always wonder if it was a secret ballot. Now when you got to your polling station you give your name and the person behind your desk reads a number out and someone else writes that down. So what's all that about.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Nothing new

          >Now when you got to your polling station you give your name and the person behind your desk reads a number out and someone else writes that down. So what's all that about.

          The UK has never had a secret ballot. Back in the 60s,70s it as standard practice to keep ballot slips for those voting eg communist. It was also cross referenced for jury duty.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nothing new

            I posted this before: -

            link.

      5. Arty Effem

        Re: Nothing new

        "I remember a few years ago (less than 5 so well within scope of data protection rules) hearing a Labour politician boasting that they knew exactly how everyone in their constituency was likely to vote as they had canvass records dating back decades "

        Then he knew how on the day they were canvassed, everyone currently in the constituency claimed they were going to vote. What could be more reliable?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where politics and politicians are concerned, believe nothing.

  5. WonkoTheSane
    Megaphone

    They can HAVE my political opinions

    I think they're ALL a bunch of useless, lying, greedy, sponging feckwits!

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: They can HAVE my political opinions

      You missed out scheming

      1. H in The Hague Silver badge

        Re: They can HAVE my political opinions

        Hmm, I rather think that 'scheming' is a bit too intellectually challenging for some of them.

        1. Mycho Silver badge

          Re: They can HAVE my political opinions

          Conniving?

  6. caffeine addict Silver badge

    Regardless of how they *got* the information, isn't taking it outside of the organisation a crime in its own right? Wouldn't using it make you a data controller in control of data you have no rights to?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I didn't steal the data, I think my phones been hacked and the data accessed and downloaded by a Trojan..."

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why have it?

    Why do they even have this DB, did the get permission from the people to store their personal data and let it be exploited by ANY politicians?

    Who ever made the DB should be held accountable too.

    1. MJB7 Bronze badge

      Re: Why have it?

      "Why do they even have this DB?" It's pretty hard to have a membership organization like a political party without having a database of the members.

      "Did they get permission from the people to store their personal data?" Yes of course they did.

      "... and let it be exploited by ANY politicians?" I'm sure they will have had wording like "to enable us to contact you to support our campaigns". And the members will have agreed to this.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Why have it?

        I'd be surprised if they even need consent under GDPR. If they've got a well-written data protection policy (no laughing at the back there!) then as a political campaigning organisation they could claim permission under the legitimate interests bit of the regs. You're only supposed to use consent where not consenting is a genuine option - but surely a party should expect to campaign to its members?

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Why have it?

          Still does not make it legitimate interest...

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Why have it?

            anothercynic,

            What do you mean? Why does a political party not have legitimate interest in communicating with its membership, both for fundraising and campaigning? That's what it's for as an organisation, and presumably why its members joined in the first place.

            Obviously sharing their data with Uncle Tom Cobley and all is another matter entirely.

            1. anothercynic Silver badge

              Re: Why have it?

              *ONLY* their communications details (email and phone number) would fall under legitimate interest, the rest as legitimate interest "for communicating and campaigning purposes" is dubious at best.

  8. Velv Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Laws don’t apply to politicians

    Clearly in the UK political universe it’s OK to use data you’ve no legal access to for political ends, and it’s OK to spread misinformation to those people. That’s why we’re in this shitstorm of Brexit nonsense.

    Now the people have seen the true information emerge over the last two years and the extent the Leave campaign lied, its time to ask the people properly in a democratic vote.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Laws don’t apply to politicians

      How about we get to vote on this..

      https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/mp-fiona-onasanya-is-jailed-for-three-months-but-keeps-her-job-kfjjrktgs

      The people of Peterborough need to get a move on with the recall petition.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Laws don’t apply to politicians

        The two things aren't mutually exclusive...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Laws don’t apply to politicians

        The people of Peterborough can't "get a move on with the recall petition" until her or Attorney General's appeals are completed (AG is, I think, appealing that 3 months is far to short a sentence hoping it will get bumped up to 1 year so that she is automatically ejected from Parliament).

      3. Mycho Silver badge

        Re: Laws don’t apply to politicians

        I wouldn't bet against them re-electing her anyway.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Laws don’t apply to politicians

      its time to ask the people properly in a democratic vote.

      Perhaps we could start by asking the Independent Group MPs, from both sides, to resign their seats and force byelections based on their new allegiance?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Laws don’t apply to politicians

        Phil O'Sophical,

        They don't have to. The constitutional position is clear, they're MPs until the next election. Admittedly Carswell and Reckless did it when they went off to UKIP, but that's pretty unusual.

        Although back in the 19th Century there was a tradition of resigning, and standing in a by-election, after being made a minister. Which was occasionally awkward, when someone lost and had to find another seat.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Laws don’t apply to politicians

          They don't have to. The constitutional position is clear, they're MPs until the next election.

          I know, but it would give them some legitimacy (or the boot).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Laws don’t apply to politicians

            There are several reasons why standing down is not a clear-cut obligation. If you listened to their resignation statements they said they felt that the Labour Party of today is not the same one that they joined; or in many cases not the same as it was at the last election. Momentum has progressively been taking over the bodies that run the party. For MPs that have been in their seat for a long time they do have an increasing personal vote; when that MP stands down the next candidate often gets a significantly lower vote than the previous one, despite being from the same party.

            In matters medical, gardening or maintenance we all know that a problem is easier to treat if caught in the bud. These people have no funds, supporters or management structures, so are easily at a big disadvantage when facing the big parties. Why else would it be so difficult to gain seats from the big two? Lets push them into a fight while they are weak, because we are afraid of how strong they will get given time?

  9. tiggity Silver badge

    Ethics

    The labour leavers made a big play about their split being due to ethical reasons.

    Interested to see how pilfering member data of a party you have left fits the ethical spin.

    Assuming it is ind group leaver(s) would be interesting to know if it was before or after they left that the deed was done.

    I would imagine when someone suddenly resigns as an MP that it takes a while before access to various systems are revoked (especially as with the quirks of UK election (individual elected so no compulsory by election if MP changes party even though most people vote on party basis) the person is still MP, their MP email address still valid etc.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ethics

      Sounds a bit like a story a friend who worked at IBM told me of how one of the salesmen went round all the systems engineers etc asking for a run down on what computing upgrades etc their clients could use in the next 2-5 years so that he could "put together a marketing strategy" .... and having done this he announced he was movign to a new job at Amdahl!

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: Ethics

        Given that this kind of data breach is the same as perpetrated by a 'disgruntled employee', any *smart* person would download such information before their termination. Of course, under GDPR the act of their termination (whether self-performed or not) would cease their permission to use that information...

    2. nematoad Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Ethics

      "Interested to see how pilfering member data of a party you have left fits the ethical spin."

      Oh, has the "pilfering" been proven in a court of law then?

      "Innocent unless proven guilty" is quite a good maxim in this case.

      Anyway, the Labour Party may well be trying to use smear tactics on these MPs. Labour are not going to do them any favours now are they?

  10. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Formby also pointed out that the info will likely reveal a person's political opinions, which makes it "special category" data that is entitled to increased protections under the law.

    The entire issue could have been avoided by simply scrapping the MP's Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/LinkedIn profiles.

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Do we have any evidence that the Triggers have this data, or is this just a drive-by smear by an anonymous Momentoid?

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      That was my first thought too.

  12. Jove Bronze badge

    A hasty judgement

    The statement made by the party's General Secretary could equally apply to former technical staff - the far more common source of such breaches.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A hasty judgement

      It was Joan Ryan who has been named elsewhere - Chris Leslie (of the Independent Group) has 'helpfully' jumped to her defense:

      “Obviously while you’re still a Labour MP and you’re still a member of the Labour party you have access and use of all of that data as it was. This is a process of separation and if the focus of the party is going to be to pick holes in the process of that separation, so be it"

      Oops.

      1. Jove Bronze badge

        Re: A hasty judgement

        Allegedly - the MP denies the allegation.

        More likely another example of a Corbynista smear campaign until proven.

  13. LucasNorth

    Maybe they downloaded the list of antisemitic members of the Labour Party. Is there a hard drive in production with a capacity to contain all of that data?

  14. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    had a guy from a political party turn up on my doorstep addressing me by name. he got a very shirty reply.

    1. Captain Badmouth

      He's got a copy of the electoral register so he probably thought he was being polite. By register I mean the complete register, not just the "public" register available to anyone - at least that used to be the case. Not sure how current data regulations have changed that.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        The electoral register solely has your name and address, so it's fairly beneign in content, and election candidates *need* to have the electoral register in order to perform their requirements of being an election candidate - they need to know who are elegible to vote for them, and in order to become a candidate who can nominate them.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "individuals who are not, or are no longer, authorised to do so"

    This is a typically meaningless politician statement. Infer nothing from it. When a politician or a political report says "a number of people were killed or injured" this might mean anything from mass genoicide to someone stubbed a toe. It is an almost completely meaningless statement used to infer what they want you to infer from the context.

  16. Claverhouse Bronze badge
    Devil

    Category of the Stupid

    This keeps coming up in these affairs...

    Formby also pointed out that the info will likely reveal a person's political opinions, which makes it "special category" data that is entitled to increased protections under the law.

    We are living in a sick demented world if people who nick information about members of a ( or any other ) political party don't know what those members' political opinions are.

  17. Wobbly World

    Problem Solved...

    Vote: Monster Raving Loony Party!!!

    They have proper data protection and policies...

    Don’t vote for other parties!

    It only encourages them!!

    Vote for the Monster Raving Loony Party!!!

    You just have to look at their policies on Brexit to know it makes sense:

    ▪Health – Germany to pay for all treatment of German Measles, and Spain ditto for Spanish Flu.

    ▪France must give us back Brittany.

    ▪All Europeans to pay to use the English Channel, and all Creme Anglais to be made in Britain.

    And they are way more fun than the other parties. Off down the pub now, bottoms up!!! ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Problem Solved...

      Tax all foreigners living in foreign countries.

  18. MJI Silver badge

    What I found a bit shocking was

    the attitude of Labour and especially momentum towards the IG people.

    Not a sorry they are going and sad to see them go.

    Just bile and nastiness.

  19. devTrail

    I can see where this story is leading to

    All right here comes my conspiracy theory. First some MPs leave the Labour accusing Corbin of anti-semitism. However people know very well the difeerence between supporting Israeli policies and attitude toward Jews, furthermore Israel is now widely used by western media propaganda as a negative character. They often exploit its image to project a negative image over what is associated with it or with their leaders. So it is clear that those who left the Labour under such ground will not do a big damage to Corbin standing, but why leaving the party now? The timing can only have one explanation, this is a preparation for the final vote on the Brexit (TEMPORARY) deal.

    So, what's going to happen? Whatever deal Theresa May might get, it will be eventually voted in, but it will be voted by the unpopular MPs, so the UK will still have some kind of agreement with the EU, but in a way that will fuels resentment. This will make the perfect background for the future negotiations for the permanent deal, forcing the UK as a wedge to open cracks in the common rules has always been the goal and the atmosphere they are creating will be used to drum support towards it.

    You can believe what I wrote or not, but one thing is sure, the toxic Brexit campaign won't stop after the end of March. The poison and the news fuelling resentment will still go on for a long time.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Charges? pah!

    In my experience the police have no interest and don't care.

    Some years ago I retired from local government after my replacement was elected. I was also our branch's data officer, which I also retired from at the same time, and handed everything over to my replacement. Unfortunately, my replacement then promptly defected to the other party, taking our branch's canvass data with him. It was reported to the police, they laughed. It was reported to the council standards body, they blew raspberries. The little bast....ian of democracy is now a cabinet member.

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