Exclusive: United Left offshoot accused of breaching data laws with campaign emails to members it rejected and who didn’t give permission

Group rejected applications from Beckett-supporting Unite members – but now is emailing them to ask them to sign letter in favour of Turner, in latest accusation of data breach

A group styling itself ‘NW Steve Turner Supporters’ (NWSTS) has been accused by Unite members in the region of using personal data, without permission, that they provided when attempting to join the ‘United Left’ (UL) group. Some of those affected had been rejected for membership of the group, which they believe occurred because they were known to be supporters of Howard Beckett. Both Beckett and Turner hope to become the next general secretary of the giant union.

Emails have gone out from NWSTS to members around the region trying to get support for a letter promoting Turner’s candidacy – but the MWSTS claims it is a standalone group separate from United Left. However, members have told the SKWAWKBOX that they have never given their data to this group, nor any permission to use it for campaigning purposes:

They did, by contrast, provide the email addresses in their applications to join UL – though even these applications would not constitute permission to use the addresses in such a campaign appeal, let alone to give it to a separate group or subgroup for that purpose.

Use of personal data without the express permission of the ‘data subject’ to use it for that purpose would be a breach of strict ‘GDPR’ laws, as would sharing personal data with a third party without the data subject’s permission.

Mr Sheehan was contacted with the following request for comment:

Those receiving the emails provided their addresses to United Left as part of a membership application, not to ‘NW Steve Turner Supporters’ – and at least some had their applications rejected, so even UL doesn’t have the right to use their email addresses for other purposes.

This is a serious enough data breach, but even more so given the accusations from PULS that UL has been using PULS data to try to poach members in Scotland who have not given their permission for their data to be used in this way…please come back to me by email by return with the following info:

1. Is NW STS really UL?
2. Has UL authorised the use of data for this campaign?
3. If so, on what basis has it done so when it doesn’t have permission from the data subjects to do so?

Mr Sheehan responded to offer to remove any addresses from the campaign if SKWAWKBOX would name them – of course naming sources is not possible. However, he did not provide responses to the questions, in spite of an immediate followup being sent as follows:

Hello Neil, I’m not at liberty to disclose sources as I’m sure you’ll understand. No comment on the data breach? If NWSTS isn’t UL, where did it obtain the data? If it is, did those UL members give permission for their data to be used in this way?

Some of those affected are considering whether to report the breach to the Information Commissioners Office.

This is not the first such time that UL or a group associated with it has been accused of such a data breach. PULS, formerly UL’s Scottish affiliate, was expelled by UL in its entirety simply for objecting to irregularities and disenfranchisement in UL’s vote on which candidate it would nominate for the Unite leadership.

Shortly after this expulsion, PULS accused UL of illegally using PULS member data to contact PULS members in Scotland to try to poach them for the new group UL had set up to try to displace PULS. That data had been provided exclusively for use in the nomination process, with no permission from data subjects to use it for other purposes.

At the same time, members of Welsh UL were threatened with expulsion if they failed to sign a ‘totalitarian pledge‘ by last weekend promising to toe the English group’s line.

United Left could not be reached for comment on these matters as they provide only a website contact form, which was out of action.

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  1. It stinks of the old Labour right wing, who are well versed in these sort of tactics.

    1. Yup, and in the age of surveillance capitalism (thank you Yvette Cooper and Theresa May) and ‘bourgeois’ agents like Assaf Kaplan, they Labour right are making it highly topical again, very 21st century.

      Me, I’m getting a new email client and a VPN, not to protect me from NSA or GCHQ/Amazon/Google/Apple/M’soft/F’book et al) , but to protect me from Starmer and Kaplan’s Labour Party.

  2. What kind of “intervention” by Len McCluskey in the election of his successor is Mr. Sheehan seeking I wonder?
    Something that advantages Turner over Beckett, clearly.
    I suppose it’s just about possible there could be some kind of intervention by a sitting General Secretary that affects the election of his successor that wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate and antidemocratic…

    1. David – Len has already made it much harder for candidates to get onto the ballot paper. Do you have any suggestions his next intervention?

      1. qwertboi – Thanks for your ‘informative’ intervention

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