Analysis Exclusive

Turner campaign in data protection row after emails to non-subscribers – including addresses not even in use with Unite

Official Turner campaign emailing members who have not given permission. Use of old email addresses raises questions about provenance of data – and attempts to unsubscribe have been unsuccessful

The official Steve Turner campaign has angered Unite members by sending them ‘Team Steve’ emails without permission, in what appear to be breaches of ‘GDPR’ data protection laws. The emails have included an invitation to Turner’s launch of his campaign to be the Unite union’s next general secretary last Wednesday.

Those who have complained about the misuse of their data have received what appears to be a ‘boilerplate’ response giving an questionable explanation for how the data was obtained and used:

You recently contacted us following receipt of an email from us to ascertain how your email address had been added to our database.

At some point your details will have been provided to us either due to your support for a previous United Left campaign/event or candidate in a previous election, including general secretary and executive council elections. Alternatively, your details could simply have been passed to us by a United Left activist who knows you and suggested we make contact.

Much of our database will have been compiled prior to recent changes to data regulation and control including GDPR.

For this reason and to ensure we remain GDPR compliant, we have contacted all those on our database seeking your permission for us to continue to retain and use your data as detailed in our privacy policy. Those who do not wish to receive anything from us are offered the opportunity to unsubscribe from our database on all our communications.

The emails are identical to similar responses sent by the pro-Turner ‘United Left’ executive after similar unauthorised emails:

However, the organisation involved in the ‘Team Steve’ breach links directly to Steve Turner, as the domain from which its press office responds is the same as that of his campaign website, which states that all its content is personally copyrighted to the candidate himself:

Unsubscribe failures

Members have also complained that despite several attempts to unsubscribe from the mailings via the link included in the emails, they continue to receive them.

Unite data

Some of the emails have been sent to members on emails that are not even in use with Unite itself and have never been registered for use by either United Left or ‘Team Steve’. One person affected told Skwawkbox:

I haven’t used this email with Unite for over 4 years, it’s not my current registration data with Unite and certainly was never used in my membership with United Left.

It may be still on the Unite database somewhere, but I’ve never received anything from UL before at this email address. This must have been recently shared with Team Steve and I certainly haven’t given permission for that.

Skwawkbox wrote to the Turner campaign:


‘Team Steve’ appears to be in breach of GDPR laws by sending emails to people who have not asked to be subscribed to the campaign – and in some cases to email addresses that have not been in use even with Unite for years. You told one complainant that ‘Much of our database will have been compiled prior to recent changes to data regulation and control including GDPR’.

You must realise that compiling data before GDPR doesn’t exempt an organisation from its obligations under GDPR and that organisations were required to make themselves compliant with GDPR before it came into force, if necessary by deleting data.

You have also claimed that the email received was to ‘ensure we remain GDPR compliant’, but the email sent was inviting people to register to join Steve Turner’s Zoom launch, not to register or de-register themselves on your mailing list.

Again, any such ‘cleansing’ of data was required to take place before GDPR came into force, so even an email subsequently to invite people to confirm or end their membership wouldn’t make ‘Team Steve’ compliant.

I have also received complaints from Unite members who have clicked to unsubscribe, often several times, yet are still receiving emails. This represents another breach.

These are serious matters under law and even more so in the context of the data breaches by Gerard Coyne in the 2017 general secretary campaign and by ‘NW Steve Turner Supporters‘ earlier this year.

Members are asking how, if Steve’s campaign can’t handle data properly, they can trust the union to handle their data properly if he becomes general secretary.

If you have any comment that you wish to have included at publication of the article that will be published about these issues, please provide it no later than noon tomorrow (Thurs 15 April). Please also advise who is running ‘Team Steve’ and its precise relationship with the candidate.

A response was received from a spokesperson for the campaign as follows:

Team Steve takes its legal responsibility towards managing supporters data extremely seriously. If any member has issues of concern, she or he should raise these directly with our campaign at

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  1. He’ll have trouble with mine. I downloaded the Unite app last year and it has never worked from day one. A pile of crap it was.

  2. Hmmm.

    It’s a frequent M.O. of the ‘moderates’ is this GDPR breaching shizzle. Labour futures, coyne, the labour party itself… I don’t think it’s an exhaustive list, too – or at least it doesn’t appear so with this latest stunt.

    Worrying times; especially when a judge has previously ruled that the leaking/gathering of such info is ok provided the leaker/gatherer cannot be traced, as hapened to Mike Sivier.

    Then there’s the likes of farcebook etc… It seems nowt’s sacred anymore.

  3. Any doubts left, that “Working Class” Boi turned Thatcherite Neoliberal Neolabour Party Tory? Like a slithering Tapeworm he’s joined the squirming parasite Neolabour Tory Party in the Dead Skin of The Democratic Socialist UK Labour Party!
    Act NOW! UNITE! Pick up the Crimson Banner and let’s plan the Pest Control and Resurrection of The UK Labour Party!

    1. No, but a Starmer-backed Labour movement politicians possibly not obeying GDPR speaks volumes -at least to the informed.

      Go and get another ‘vaccine’ David and give all your NHS data to CIA-funded Palantir Technologies while you’re at it. Oh, no need, Sir Keir’s good friend, Matt Hancock is already doing it for you!

  4. Nobody claimed it would. You seem eager to dismiss it as good as immaterial, though…Wonder why?

  5. GDPR compliance is hardly policed . It is a ‘self-policing’ protcol. Email marketing organisations know this and, I suspect, do not always adhere to GDPR rules. I’ve often received marketing emails or texts and been unable to recall when I might have been asked for and granted permission to contact me.

    All a person can do when this happens is utilise the obligatory ‘unsubscribe’ link. Sometimes (well twice recently), unsubscribing has had no effect and the marketing texts or emails continue.

    This is typical of a ‘self-policing’ system deployed in a neoliberal, mass indiscriminate surveillance environment.

    That low-life profiteers’ abuse GDPR hardly surprises me. That Steve Turner, or any trade union official, possibly does so alarms and distresses me.

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