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With an election imminent, it’s crucial we continue to defend democracy and hold the powerful to account.

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Case update 10 February 2024

The letter the Tories didn’t want us to publish – here it is

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We’re fighting to stop political parties misusing voter data. It’s no surprise the Conservatives wanted to keep their response to our challenge under wraps.

When the Tories threatened to sue us if we published their response to our legal claim we called their bluff and told them we would publish anyway unless they stopped us with an injunction. They haven’t asked for an injunction, so here it is.

The response deals with the four elements of our legal claim that they have collected data unlawfully. It’s a claim Dawn Butler put to Rishi Sunak in Parliament, and which he denied.

The first element was that the Tories acted unlawfully in failing to seek consent before their online tool placed unnecessary cookies. They say they did obtain consent but our analysis shows that is clearly wrong – they could be collecting people’s data for their campaigning operation in a way which is not lawful. And we have made a 15-page complaint to the Information Commissioner, who will decide.

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Second, we said their privacy notice was unlawful. They don’t explicitly admit this – but they have agreed to change it. We’re considering with specialist Counsel whether to ask the Court to make a declaration of illegality, given that the Tories have stated publicly that it was lawful while tacitly admitting in private that it is not.

Third, we asked the Tories to stop processing Jo Maugham’s personal data where that processing reveals his political opinions. They have agreed to do this within the timeframes set by the law.

But the final element of our claim – and the reason all of this matters – is the profiling the Tories do with the data they collect. 

When Jo asked the Conservatives for copies of the information they hold about him, they sent over a file which runs to 1,384 pages –  a stack of paper almost half a foot thick. And we don’t think they have provided it all. We believe that profiling is unlawful and we’re likely to bring a claim. We have instructed two leading data specialist barristers, and will update you shortly.

With trust in political processes at an all-time low, it’s all the more important that political parties  are open, transparent and accountable about how they use your data. But, as the General Election approaches, it looks like some political parties are riding roughshod over crucial data rights.

When political parties take your data, they start to build a profile of who you are. Rather than dealing with the big strategic political issues of our time, they tap into our insecurities, using micro-targeted digital ads to campaign on fear rather than hope.

We’ll keep bringing these shady practices to light. And we’ll keep fighting for elections that are open, free and fair.

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