An admin slip by a functionary has raised fears that the Labour’s right-dominated HQ is ‘scraping‘ – collating from various sources without obvious links – the social media information of members in readiness for a future repeat of the ‘purges’ that suspended and expelled members during the party’s last two leadership elections.
The SKWAWKBOX exclusively revealed audio last month that appeared to show a ‘compliance’ operative indicating that the party had ways to access even protected social media feeds. Labour denied that this was the case.
But new evidence seems to suggest that Labour is conducting some kind of collation of social media from various sources, even where social media accounts are unconnected to email addresses used on members’ party accounts.
Labour’s handling of members’ social media feeds for disciplinary purposes earned the party a rebuke by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and General Secretary Ian McNicol issued guidance to Labour officials warning them that use of social media without permission would breach the DPA (Data Protection Act).
However, party insiders have suggested recently that Labour’s HQ believes it has a way to continue to use such information legally – even though the party’s refusal to disclose how it intends to do this is almost certainly a breach of its obligations under the DPA to handle data in a ‘fair and transparent’ way.
Whatever the details of its plan, however, ‘scraping’ seems extremely unlikely to form part of any legal methodology – but the evidence suggests that Labour’s bureaucracy is engaged in it.
A source – which for reasons that will be obvious must remain anonymous – contacted the SKWAWKBOX with an apparent ‘smoking gun’ and details of how it came about:
I noticed a while ago that they were definitely scraping and collating info from multiple sources – and they’ve just proven they’re doing it again.
I have taken to regularly changing my twitter handle / account name etc to see whether their scrapers can handle it – and it looks like they can.
They’ve managed to conflate my Labour party email address with my twitter account (my Twitter account does not have the same email as the address I use for Twitter, and I am not searchable by email address anyway).
Hilariously the end result is that they seem to be using people’s Twitter names as their real names for email purposes.
I dont know how they’re scraping or keeping things in sync given that I’ve been deliberately changing account and contact info, but it might be worth seeing if others end up in similar situation.
I expect they’re using some kind of 3rd-party system which can analyse social media accounts given a single piece of contact info – take a look at [redacted].com/ for an example of something like that.
It feels sloppy – I’m not sure what kind of lack of understanding you need in order to override someone’s real name with their twitter handle, but hey ho. So I imagine they’re doing it in at least some kind of semi-automated way and either aren’t checking the names or don’t care enough to check
They must be keeping the info updated relatively regularly too, since I change names often and the email contained the latest version.
The source sent this blog a screenshot of an email received from the Labour Party, in which the ‘name’ used was the same as the Twitter account name – which is clearly not a real human name.
To protect the identity of the source, the details cannot be shown here, but imagine an email addressed to ‘Dear Hamster Resistance‘ and you’ll have the right kind of level of obviousness – and remember that there is no link between the Twitter name and the email address registered with the Labour Party, nor has the member’s real name been used on the Twitter account.
The most likely explanation for the appearance of the Twitter name is that the ‘scraping’ software used by Labour captured the Twitter name for entry against the member’s file details – but the employee entering the details screwed up the process and put the Twitter account details into the First_name/Last_name field by mistake.
Giving away the fact that Labour have those details, when it otherwise would have been kept hidden.
The fact that Labour appear to be doing this will be of serious concern to many members – and anyone concerned with privacy and proper data handling.
It’s almost unimaginable that ‘scraping’ of this kind will be compliant with the DPA, as at least some information collected has not been given to Labour by the data subjects at all, let alone permission given to use it for anything.
However, Labour HQ and the ICO will be contacted for comment when they reopen on Monday.
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