internet-surveillance
“There should be a moratorium on any access to membership list by any office holder or elected representative save for normal membership procedures related directly to their office for the duration of this election. Any member using Labour Party membership data in an unauthorised way will be referred to the Office of the Information Commissioner and may be subject to disciplinary action.”

That is the line from the Labour Party today, after the Information Commissioner stepped in to stop activists – for the right-wing think tank Progress, Labour First and anti-Corbyn website Saving Labour – from contacting members who may have lapsed due to Jeremy Corbyn having become leader, and sending them unsolicited material asking them to pay the £25 affiliation fee in order to help oust him.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) acted after reports appeared in the social media, including This Site, showing that the activity taking place was illegal.

Labour Party members contacted the ICO, which in turn contacted Labour.

A statement has been issued as follows:

Leadership Election 2016 – Data Protection

The Labour Party has recently received direction from the Information Commissioner’s Office in respect of complaints received from affiliated supporters and registered supporters about communications from candidates in the last Leadership election.

In particular we have had to supply written assurances that measures will be put in place to obtain individual consent to send unsolicited direct marketing, including in internal elections, and that this consent will be obtained for each contact method we wish to use.

Further we have been advised that:

If the Labour Party or its elected members intend to send marketing material to individuals (regardless of their membership status) it should ensure that consent is gained. A facility should be provided to allow the individual to consent to each method the Labour Party or its elected members wish to contact them by.

The implication of this direction is that candidates in internal Labour Party elections MUST NOT be given access to lists of existing registered and affiliated supporters which allow for unsolicited marketing messages to be sent by email or telephone. Indeed, there must be explicit consent given by each supporter to receiving marketing messages by each and every channel of communication.

We currently rely on the rules governing internal elections to offer some protection from this direction from the ICO in respect of Labour Party members, but we are urgently considering whether this directive has further implications in respect of direct communication by candidates in any internal ballot with Labour Party members.

As far as the Leadership election is concerned we will have to:

1. Make more explicit any data sharing arrangements with affiliated organisations so that there is greater clarity about communications which may be received by individual affiliated supporters.

2. Make more explicit the data protection statement for registered supporters so that there is greater clarity about communications which may be received.

3. Re-confirm with existing affiliated supporters that they wish to receive any communications in respect of the current Leadership election.

4. Set out clearly in an early communication to all members and registered and affiliated supporters the likely communications programme with procedures for opting in/out of various communication channels.

5. There should be a moratorium on any access to membership list by any office holder or elected representative save for normal membership procedures related directly to their office for the duration of this election. Any member using Labour Party membership data in an unauthorised way will be referred to the Office of the Information Commissioner and may be subject to disciplinary action.

To everybody involved in the detection and prevention of this crime: Well done!

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