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Case update 03 June 2024

The Mail folds on its awkward appeal to human rights

Even the Daily Mail can’t dodge its legal obligations. It shouldn’t be that hard to find out what companies, campaigners and political parties know about us all.

It’s hard to fight reality, even for a rightwing mouthpiece as unhinged as the Daily Mail. So maybe it was only a matter of time before the paper caved on its bizarre appeal to the European Convention on Human Rights.

When our executive director, Jo Maugham, stepped up to investigate how the Tories are harvesting our personal data, he found out they’d been sharing his with a ragtag mob of shady PR companies, dodgy campaigners and rightwing media outlets including the Mail. He sent the company a data subject access request, a legal right we all have to find out if someone is storing or processing our information. But it refused to come clean.

Even though the Mail has been campaigning against European human rights law for years – branding it an “insidious undermining of the sovereignty of parliament” – it claimed that carrying out the search would be “an unwarranted interference” with its freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights.

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We reminded the Mail that UK law – passed by the UK parliament – is crystal clear. Any one of us can ask a firm, a public body or a political party for “all the information you hold”, and even if that requires some digging they “must still comply”. We also said we’d sue if it kept on refusing.

Now the Mail has backed down, grudgingly conceding that it “will conduct a reasonable and proportionate search” of its records.

The paper is still wriggling, pleading that since the request is “complex” it will need three months, and suggesting that Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) is the “correct entity to conduct the search” instead of its parent company, Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT).

But it doesn’t get to choose. We made a data subject access request of DMGT, so DMGT has got to tell us what it holds and what it’s doing. Now that ANL says it also has a bunch of Jo’s data, we’ve made a request to ANL as well.

We’re still waiting on replies from the other outlets the Tories named – The Telegraph, The Sun and Guido Fawkes. And we’re building tools to make it easier for everyone to find out how political parties are gobbling up our personal data.

This general election isn’t just being fought on the doorstep. The parties are campaigning in the cloud, driven by data to make tailored messages that spread under the radar. We’ll keep defending our democracy, shining a light on shadowy campaigns and holding politicians and journalists to account.