When you write to your MP, you would hope that your data is treated with respect, especially as some of it could be very personal. I have written to my local MP in the past, both highlighting issues and complaints, but also to thank him when he has sent useful information, the most recent being some info he sent to my business about the change in tax. In return, he signs anyone up anyone who writes to him to his mailing list. This is against the data protection act, but then to further abuse the position, he used that list to send party promotional literature from his personal email address, though still using the his MP newsletter format so unless you checked the header, you probably wouldn’t notice the difference. This is not the first time he has done this, he was made to apologise for a similar incident (though using his MP address that time) during the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections.
No doubt, as we have seen in recent months, this won’t be his fault, and he won;t apologise. As in the recent incident where he made outrageous comments about food banks and I called for his resignation. His response was to get the paper to apologise for a misleading headline, instead of him apologising for the comments he did make. He thinks himself completely vindicated and that this is just political fighting. No doubt this will develop in the same way. He seems to think that abusing our data is perfectly acceptable.
In many respects, I’m lucky, because I deal with data on a regular basis and do have a grasp of Data Protection, not only for legal issues, but ethical reasons too. This is why I was able to recognise the abuse of the data for what it was and the deliberate way it was done.
He sent out two emails. The first one acknowledged that he was sending it out from his personal email, so clearly realising he was on dodgy ground, but he still used the data gathered in his role as an MP. The format was the same as his other newsletters, so a clear breach. His second where he encouraged people to come out to vote, and that would have been OK, if he then hadn’t gone to promote one of his own candidates, again sent from his own email using his MP mailing list. I can deal with him being incompetent, it proves that I was right not to vote for him, but it is things like this that are just plain wrong. It has nothing to do with his party, but this is yet another breaking of the guidelines. That’s why I felt I had to take it further.
Firstly to try to find the right person to complain to was difficult but eventually got to the right person and lodged the complaint with the Information Commission. They investigated and have comment as follows:
From the information provided to us it does appear that Mr Graham has breached the DPA. Our guidance on political campaigning says “organisations should not use contact details obtained when carrying out casework for direct marketing unless they are sure that the constituents concerned would expect that contact from them and would not object.”
We have advised Mr Graham to ensure that he does not use contact details provided in connection with constituency casework for campaigning or marketing purposes unless he is sure that the relevant constituents would not object.
Sending unsolicited marketing emails is also a breach of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).
Regulation 22 of the PECR says that unsolicited direct marketing emails cannot be sent to individual subscribers without prior consent, unless specific conditions apply. We have therefore advised Mr Graham to review his current mailing lists and suppress details for those individuals who have not consented to direct marketing.
Many people will not realise that what he did was against regulations and he is misusing personal data. But I hope that if you believe that he has misused your data, let the ICO know because they also said:
Although we are not taking any further action at this point, we will keep the concern raised on file. This will help us over time to build up a picture of Mr Graham’s information rights practices.
I hope that an apology is forthcoming, and more importantly that he revise his use of residents data.
The Local press have reported the story.