Labour Broke e-Laws During Election Campaign

This post has been in gestation for a month and has been held up for various reasons, including Zack Exley threatening to sue Guido. It has been edited down to what can definitely be stood up in court – Zack has seen it and whined extensively about it. Despite being invited to make corrections, he has failed to point out any specific errors. There is a lot more to this, (Zack, the comments section is open).

There is evidence of law-breaking by the American left-winger George Bush dubbed the “garbage man” and Labour hired to create its sophisticated email campaign. Zack previously worked at the anti-Bush, Soros backed MoveOn.Org campaign. He also worked on Kerry’s campaign. All the Labour Party campaign emails designed by Zack made bold references to the Privacy Statement on Labour’s website which states

You may be asked for personal information if you complete one of the forms on this site. Please see below the information we ask for and what this information is used for. In each case we will only use the information about you for the purpose for which you provide it. The Labour Party does not sell or disclose this information to outside organisations or individuals, nor transfer it outside the United Kingdom

It is a criminal offence under the Data Protection Act to obtain information by misrepresentation. Guido has evidence that data collected by the Labour Party was in fact, contrary to their privacy claims, disclosed to an outside private corporation. The corporation is Email Reaction, a firm usually hired by banks and similar mass marketers. The Labour Party’s email campaign utilised Email Reaction to embed unique Spyware links in the emails to identify who opened an email. Link tracking systems can analyse signals sent back from embedded software code in the emails to report who clicked on a link in an email and when. The Spyware is sophisticated enough so that individual histories for each individual can be compiled showing their full history (emails sent, clicks, opens, donations made). The Labour party collected postcode details when it collected email addresses for its database which could be used to tie in with the data available from the massive Mosaic consumer database.

David Naylor, partner, Technology Transactions Group at global technology and finance law firm, Morrison & Foerster points out that

the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications 2002 introduces new laws across Europe controlling the use of cookies and other tracking technology used on websites as well as location-based data.

These laws were brought into force in the UK on 11 December 2003, under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. Companies and other data controllers that ignore these laws may be subject to regulatory investigation and fines, civil liability and, in some circumstances, criminal liability. In certain circumstances, criminal sanctions may be imposed for breaches of data protection laws not only against a company that acts as a data controller, but also against its directors. You should note that the regulations apply to all cookies and tracking devices, whether or not they are used to store personally identifiable data.

During the campaign Guido had been digging into this for a few weeks when he exchanged emails with Zack Exley and challenged him on this issue. Despite initial denials, when presented with proof he later admitted that the links were in the emails, but denied they were utilised and claimed they were an over-sight by the outside software supplier Email Reaction. He tried to put Guido off the scent, eventually threatening that he would “cut you off for life” if Guido disclosed this information. (Guido will cope.)

Subsequent campaign email sent out by the Labour party did not contain the unique identifiers. The press office and the legal department will not respond to any information requests. Failure to disclose the Spyware and failure to offer opt out facilities are criminal offences under the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. Melanie Onn, the Constitutional and Legal Officer for the Legal and Financial Compliance Taskforce for the Labour Party stonewalled on giving answers to all questions and requests prior to May 5. Applications and requests under the Data Protection Act were ignored – in breach of the law. But breaching the Data Protection Act by not supplying blogging applicants such as Guido and Tim Ireland with the information they are obliged to supply, in the time they are supposed to do, is the least of Melanie Onn’s worries. Guido understands that privacy advocates are contemplating legal action in what would be a test case, who better to test the laws against than the governing party that introduced them?




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