Category Archives: Data protection

Twitter is ordered to answer Vox Political’s Subject Access Request. This could be embarrassing!

Remember when Twitter suspended This Writer’s account back in December?

It was connected with my reporting of Rachel Riley’s attempt to strike out my defence against her libel claim.

Apparently, this person complained to Twitter about it –

Identified? This person posted screenshots that appear to show they are responsible for the complaint that had Vox Political’s Mike Sivier suspended from Twitter. Mike has no idea who this person is and a Twitter search provides no evidence of any contact.

– and Twitter suspended me on the spot.

I then submitted a Subject Access Request which Twitter failed to honour, despite being legally obliged to do so – and that’s where the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) came in.

Twitter emailed me on December 17. Its statement – and what I wrote in response on This Site – are as follows:

“Thank you. Our record indicates that your account is not suspended. This case will now be closed.

“It really won’t, you know.

“Yes, my account was restored on Thursday (December 17), but it had still been unavailable to me for five days and I want to know why. I have a right to know why. Remember, Twitter never contacted me with a reason for my suspension.

“I submitted a Subject Access Request, which is a legal requirement. By UK law, Twitter has one calendar month from the date I submitted my request (December 12) to honour it. No excuses. No apologies. If it fails to provide the information, Twitter will have broken the law.”

At the time, Twitter had been collecting a huge amount of criticism for suspending accounts belonging to left-wing writers, apparently after receiving co-ordinated complaints from users who were making false claims of anti-Semitism.

The message from Mr(?) Grunspan, above, clearly appears to be connected with this as it deliberately makes a connection with Rachel Riley’s court case against me and reasserts the false claims of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial against me.

I had to wait a while for the ICO to get back to me.

In the meantime, Twitter suspended my account again at the beginning of February – again with no notification. I had to wait a whole month before it was restored this time and, as with the December suspension, I was told that investigations showed I had not, in fact, done anything against the site’s rules.

Today (April 21) I received an email from the ICO. Here are the relevant parts [boldings theirs]:

“We have considered the issues that you have raised with us and our decision is that there is more work for the organisation to do.

“We have therefore raised your issues with the Chief Executive, via the Data Protection Officer, explaining that we want them to work with you to resolve any outstanding matters.

We expect the organisation to fully address your complaint by telling you what they are going to do to put things right, or if they believe they have met their data protection obligations by explaining fully how they have done so.

“We have allowed the organisation 28 days to consider the issues that you have raised with us, and to consider next steps in your case. Many organisations will contact individuals sooner than that, however, if you have allowed 28 days, and there is no contact at all then please let us know.”

I look forward with interest to finding out how Twitter will say it honoured my Subject Access Request. I expect you will, too.

The clock is ticking. Do you think I will even receive a response by (checks calendar) May 19?

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Conservative Party ‘racially profiled’ 10 million voters illegally before 2019 election

Questionable behaviour: the party that once put out the above as an election communication has been gathering information on UK voters by race and religion. What harm do you think they were going to do with it?

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party bought tools to work out voters’ race and religion and used it for “racial and religious profiling” of 10 million people before the 2019 election, the Information Commissioner’s Office has revealed.

The Open Rights Group has said the data could have been used for “voter suppression techniques”, and referred to Tory Zac Goldsmith’s 2016 London Mayoral campaign, when he was criticised for ethnicity-targeted leaflets aimed at Hindu, Sikh and Tamil voters.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Tories used the information in any specific way in the 2019 election campaign.

The Open Rights Group has released this video, in which ICO staff explain that it was illegal to collect ethnicity data:

Cat Smith, Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement, said the revelation that the party in government – that is due to impose new, discriminatory voter identification laws – had been using illegal means to gather information is serious cause for alarm:

“The Conservative Party’s illegal misuse of ethnic race data – a characteristic protected by law – is deeply concerning.”

“With the government’s discriminatory Voter ID laws due to come into law this year, such racial profiling by the Party that is in charge of upholding our data protection laws raises serious alarm bells.”

Why would the Tories want to gather information that the law forbids them from taking, if not to give themselves an unfair electoral advantage?

What were they planning to do with it?

And why have they not even been punished?

We don’t know whose voter information received this “racial and religious profiling” treatment, so I think we all need to ask the Tories what they have been finding out about us.

We should all send a Subject Access Request to Conservative Central Office, demanding full disclosure of all information they have about us.

Source: Conservative Party ‘racially profiled’ 10 million voters | openDemocracy

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Twitter breaks UK law; complaint made to the Information Commissioner

Identified? This person posted screenshots that appear to show they are responsible for the complaint that had Vox Political’s Mike Sivier suspended from Twitter. Mike has no idea who this person is and a Twitter search provides no evidence of any contact.

You may recall that This Writer’s Twitter account was suspended before Christmas – based, I believe, on the false claims of the owner of the account shown in the image above.

I submitted a Subject Access Request to Twitter on December 12 last year, requiring it to deliver all information about the suspension to me within one calendar month.

Twitter has failed to honour that request and is therefore in breach of UK law. Twitter is not exempt from the law.

I have therefore made a complaint about Twitter to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

I don’t know whether it will do any good; the ICO’s response when the Labour Party failed to honour a SAR was absolutely hopeless.

But every little helps – right?

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Labour is now habitually leaking member suspensions to the press in violation of Data Protection law

These days, data is digital – and that makes it all-too-easy for unscrupulous people and organisations to leak personal information to third parties in breach of the Data Protection Act and the General Data Protection Regulations. Labour has been doing it for years.

Look at this:

Yes, it’s a much more dignified statement than anything put out by the right-wingers responsible for the suspensions, but for This Writer, the really important part is in the very first paragraph.

Ms Regan stated: “I was deeply disappointed to learn from the press last Friday that I had been suspended from the Labour Party.”

It is against the law for an organisation such as the Labour Party to share personal information relating to any member with a third party without the member’s consent.

That’s in the UK’s Data Protection Act(s) and in the General Data Protection Regulations to which the UK subscribes.

However, as we all discovered from the verdict in my court case last week (didn’t we?), the law doesn’t count if the organisation (in this case, Labour) can say with a straight face that the leak was carried out by a party officer without the knowledge of their bosses, and they do not know who was responsible for the leak.

The statement doesn’t have to be true. All Labour has to do is fail to provide any information to the contrary. And as the organisation controlling all the information, you can be sure that it won’t be forthcoming.

So Ms Regan found out from the press.

Jeremy Corbyn found out about his suspension from a photographer.

Nadia Whittome found out she had been sacked as a PPS from the Guido Fawkes blog.

There have been many more, back through the years to the moment when…

I found out about my own suspension from a reporter working at the Western Mail, on May 3, 2017.

Labour has been leaking damaging private information about party members to the press for more than three and a half years.

It isn’t legal. But it is clearly de facto party policy.

Obviously the law has to change to close this loophole. I said the same in my article about my court case.

It’s going to be interesting watching Labour opposing the change (or will it?) in Parliament.

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Shocking verdict in Mike’s court case against Labour means NOBODY is safe

Anybody who hands their personal information to a third party – a company, a club, a political party, the government or whoever – may see that data handed out to others or made public, with no way of seeking legal redress, according to the finding of a court case today.

And Labour members going through the party’s complaints procedure are still unlikely to get justice, even after the party promised to follow recommendations by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

These are the inevitable conclusions drawn from the verdict in This Writer’s court case, in which I accused the Labour Party of breach of contract.

I had said that Labour had failed to follow its own procedures for investigating complaints against party members after an allegation of anti-Semitism was made against me in 2017.

And I had said that a party official – or several – had leaked information, including lies, about me to the press while I was going through that process, in breach of the Data Protection Act.

Both of those claims were found to be accurate.

But in the hearing this afternoon, Deputy District Judge Whiteley said he could not uphold my case against Labour because the party’s Rule Book does not say that it must follow the procedures it has created to investigate complaints, or that it must adhere to the DPA.

That’s right. Unless an organisation’s rules specifically state that it will adhere to the Data Protection Act, then there are loopholes in the law – large enough to drive a lorry through – that mean your personal information can be passed on to anybody at all, regardless of your own wishes.

In this case, I had said somebody within the Labour Party had passed information that I had been accused of anti-Semitism to the Western Mail in 2017, and a Labour employee (I don’t know whether it was the same person) had passed false information about the allegations against me to The Sunday Times in February 2018. I said this breached the Data Protection Act because information about me had been passed on without my permission.

But Labour said that the party itself had not authorised the leak and that it had been unable to identify that anybody within its system had caused it. The party could not deny that the leak came from within Labour because the information had been generated as part of its complaint process and could only, therefore, have come from Labour.

The law states that an unincorporated association (which is how Labour is defined for legal purposes) is responsible for prohibited conduct carried out by its employees and agents against members and prospective members. Breaching the DPA would count as such.

But it also states that an association would not be legally responsible for the act of an employee that was not carried out in the course of their employment – and the court deemed that leaking information was not an act carried out in the course of their employment.

This means that any organisation that has your personal information may pass it on indescriminately – to anybody it likes, no matter what the Data Protection Act says or how avidly it states it adheres to that law, because anybody working there can follow the actions of Labour’s employee(s) and know they will get away with it.

So if you have provided your information to any third party at all, it is not safe.

Nor will it be safe until our lawmakers find a way to close this loophole in the law. They will not even consider doing so unless they are pressured into it. That will be your responsibility.

The judge also said that Labour had not breached its contract with me by failing to investigate the complaint against me according to its own procedures, because those procedures were not enshrined in the party’s Rule Book and therefore it had no obligation to follow them.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has announced that the party will follow the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, whose report on anti-Semitism in the party contains a chapter on the failings of the process by which complaints are investigated.

The EHRC recommended that Labour should “publish a comprehensive policy and procedure, setting out how antisemitism complaints will be handled and how decisions on them will be made”.

It says the party should “develop and implement comprehensive internal guidance for all stages of the antisemitism complaints process”.

None of this means a damned thing because anybody challenging a failure by the party to follow its procedures will find that it has no obligation to do so; they are merely procedures, not rules.

Consider the way current complaints procedures have been flouted wholesale recently – not just over the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn but over complaints against allies of Starmer who have been accused of anti-Semitism – and against Starmer himself.

It seems clear that the Labour Party Rule Book is not worth the paper it is printed on – or the electricity required to put it on your screen.

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Cambridge Analytica did not misuse data in EU referendum; it just lied about what it could do, says watchdog

This can’t be the first time an organisation harmed its own reputation with wild claims.

But Cambridge Analytica seems to have engineered its own destruction with its claim to be able to influence people using data it had accrued about them.

These referred to Americans but it seems they raised questions about the organisation’s role in the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union in 2016.

As a result, the (UK’s) Information Commissioner launched an investigation into the company in 2017 – and it collapsed in 2018.

Were the two events related? If so, it could be argued that Cambridge Analytica’s own boasts destroyed it.

Cambridge Analytica had repeatedly claimed in its marketing material to have “5,000+ data points per individual on 230 million adult Americans”, suggesting it had incredible power to micro-target individuals with suggestive political messaging using a giant psychographic database.

However, the investigation concluded that “based on what we found it appears that this may have been an exaggeration” and much of the company’s activities followed “well recognised processes using commonly available technology”.

So did it attract the unwanted attention of the information regulator needlessly?

Well, it seems the firm wasn’t involved in the EU referendum campaign at all:

[Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner] said she found no evidence that Cambridge Analytica were actively involved in the EU referendum campaign, beyond an early proposal to work with UKIP which was not put into action.

It turns out the Information Commissioner found no evidence of collusion with Russia to influence the referendum either:

[Denham] said her team also found no evidence Cambridge Analytica aided Russian intervention in the UK political process.

Particularly interesting to This Writer, though, was the revelation that

the company’s data protection practices were lax “with little thought for effective security measures”.

Couple this with the following –

Cambridge Analytica founder Alexander Nix was disqualified from acting as a company director for seven years for “offering potentially unethical services to prospective clients” including bribery or honey trap stings, voter disengagement campaigns, obtaining information to discredit political opponents, and spreading information anonymously in political campaigns.

– and we see that the firm (or at least its founder) was quite happy to break the Data Protection Act left, right and centre by obtaining information and then distributing it to the public in breach of the law.

This links with my recent court case against the Labour Party, in which I gave evidence that employees had put together false information about me and passed it to newspapers who then published it to thousands of people.

Labour’s representative tried to claim that, even though the party (as represented by its general secretary) was the data manager responsible for the way the information was used, it was not responsible for the acts of any employees because (as I understand it) there is no evidence that it ordered them to commit those acts.

But then, they wouldn’t have had access to this – false, in my case – information if Labour had not ordered them to compile it.

Put the two cases together and it seems the Data Protection Act is a dead letter – unless a person whose information has been misused can prove exactly who misused it and why they did it. That’s going to be impossible in most cases, isn’t it?

I was therefore hoping to read that the Information Commissioner was bringing recommendations to the government that would strengthen the law.

And I was keen to see what they would be.

I was disappointed. It seems all the information that we are obliged to provide to organisations, just to get on in modern life, is vulnerable to abuse every way you can imagine. Not a happy thought!

Source: Cambridge Analytica did not misuse data in EU referendum, says watchdog | UK news | The Guardian

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Covid-19: Tories admit their own incompetence as ‘test and trace’ app is unlawful

Matt Hancock: he was a Covid-19 super-spreader so it should be no surprise that his employees on the ‘track and trace’ programme have been publicising patients’ confidential information. It is a criminal offence and he should be punished by a judge. What do you think will happen?

Isn’t this criminal stupidity?

The Tories have been telling us their ‘test and trace’ app for finding people who’ve had Covid-19, in order to isolate those they’ve contacted, is vital to prevent the spread of the disease – and therefore stop unnecessary deaths.

But now we learn that it breaches privacy laws, with Sky News reporting that the programme’s staff have been sharing private information about patients on the social media.

What a Hobson’s Choice we’ve had – refuse to use the app and Tory twits like Matt Hancock accuse us of betraying the campaign against the virus; but if we do use it, our intimate personal information goes public!

It turns out that critics of the scheme, the Open Rights Group, were right and the government did not conduct a data privacy impact assessment (DPIA) which is required to ensure that breaches of patients’ information don’t take place.

But a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said there was “no evidence of data being used unlawfully” – and then clammed up when asked if a Sunday Times report that this is exactly what has happened was accurate.

The Open Rights Group reckons it has already seen evidence of confidential track and trace information being shared on social media – and This Writer is certainly more inclined to believe that organisation than a government that has built up a record of relentless incompetence.

Can anybody tell me a single thing the Tories have got right since December 13, 2019?

Of course, breach of Data Protection laws is a criminal offence and the person directly responsible for this one will be the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, one Matt Hancock.

How lucky he must feel, knowing that as a Tory minister he is above the law and the police wouldn’t touch him even if he committee murder on television.

Source: Coronavirus: Government admits its Test and Trace programme is unlawful | Science & Tech News | Sky News

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Court threat for Matt Hancock over whether ‘test and trace’ system keeps your personal information safe

Matt Hancock: like his boss Boris Johnson, he’s big on gestures but short on substance – and it seems he rushed his Covid-19 ‘test and trace’ system into operation without ensuring that it is entirely legal.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock could be dragged into court after the Tory government failed to show that its Covid-19 ‘test and trace’ system protects people’s personal information.

More than 150,000 people have had their personal information handled by the scheme since it was rushed into service on May 28, but the government has failed to conduct a risk assessment showing how these details will be protected from falling into the wrong hands.

This is required in accordance with a law that the Conservative government passed.

Now Matt Hancock has until July 8 to provide that information – or he will be brought to court:

Lawyers working on behalf of privacy and free speech organisation Open Rights Group (ORG) have issued health secretary Matt Hancock and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) with a pre-action legal letter that says they have breached requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR by failing to properly conduct a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) for the whole Test and Trace system.

Test and Trace has been criticised for failing to reach a quarter of people who tested positive for Covid-19, a lack of staff training as thousands of people were initially employed, and the collapse of the NHS-developed contact tracing app. Similarly to Test and Trace, no DPIA was available before the app’s trial on the Isle of Wight started.

Source: Matt Hancock faces day in court over NHS Test and Trace privacy failings | WIRED UK

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When did you consent to Amazon profiting from your NHS data?

Matt Hancock: as Health Secretary, it seems he has broken data protection laws by handing your information to a commercial organisation that intends to profit from it.

The Times is reporting that the Tory government has handed all your NHS health information to Amazon – free – so that company can make a profit from it.

And they did it without telling you – presumably in the hope that nobody would notice.

How do you feel about that?

When did you give your consent to it?

This is private information which, as a data controller, the NHS should not be passing on to anybody else. That’s the law.

But of course the Tories don’t think that even the laws they write apply to them.

Amazon has been handed the keys to a trove of NHS data it can use to develop products to sell internationally without paying a penny to the UK.

A government contract, revealed under freedom of information laws, shows the partnership goes far beyond the tie-up with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant announced in July.

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said at the time the NHS should “embrace” the technology, saying it would cut pressure on GPs and pharmacists. But the contract shows the American tech giant could access more than just NHS website data.

The $863bn company can access “all healthcare information” gathered by the NHS at the UK taxpayers’ expense, including “symptoms, causes and definitions”.

Source: Amazon ready to cash in on free access to NHS data | News | The Sunday Times

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Nandy’s plan to tackle Labour anti-Semitism allegations isn’t only bad – it’s illegal

Lisa Nandy: The mouth is open but there is no sign of intelligence.

Can someone please give Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy’s head a shake and, when it’s cleared, show her a copy of the Data Protection Act?

Nandy has just put forward her plan to deal with allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. It is imbecilic and illegal.

Here’s the gist:

The plan calls for an immediate zero-tolerance policy under a new leader, with the party fully implementing, as a minimum, any recommendations from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is formally investigating Labour over allegations of antisemitism. Another instant change would be to lower the threshold for suspending members where there are “credible accusations of antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism”.

Nandy has also pledged to introduce a new and independent complaints process, saying the existing process “is not trusted to handle the wave of cases the hard-working staff team have faced because of legitimate concerns about political interference” and a factionalised process.

Another promised element would be transparency, with Nandy pledging to share information on disciplinary cases with MPs, local parties, the JLM and the media. The JLM would be brought back to carry out training on antisemitism.

We’ll put to one side the insistence on slavish obedience to the findings of an EHRC investigation that may be tainted by false evidence and allegations of bias within that organisation. Let’s look at that another day.

If Nandy wants to lower the threshold for suspending members accused of racism, she probably knows the bar is already very low. This Writer’s own membership was suspended in the basis of an article by the Campaign Against Antisemitism that was – let’s be fair – chock-full of lies.

It’s no wonder that the CAA is now under investigation by the Charity Commission over claims that it has breached rules of political impartiality that all charities must keep.

But it is Nandy’s promise to introduce an independent complaints process, and to share information on disciplinary cases with other organisations – including the media – that are illegal.

As a data controller, Labour is under an obligation to keep data on its members confidential.

That means no sharing with other organisations or individuals, except under exceptional circumstances, without the consent of the data subject.

This Writer is currently in the middle of a court case against the Labour Party over the cavalier way it disregarded its own disciplinary procedures and the Data Protection Act that was in effect at the time (the current version has more protections for data subjects).

I think my case is airtight. The breaches of law and contract are clear. I do not expect to lose.

That will be extremely embarrassing for Labour – and doubly so for any leader who imposes new rules that spit on the law.

Postscript: Oh, and Nandy’s claim to be sympathising with Jewish party members who say they’re agonising about quitting the party is all well and good – but she seems to be ignoring the fact that her planned pogrom against Labour members indicates that she supports a certain form of racism herself.

Source: ‘Make-or-break time’ on antisemitism in Labour, says Lisa Nandy | Politics | The Guardian

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
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