Labour Party Risks £15m Fine For Not protecting Members' Data

The British Labour Party has reported some members of one candidates's leadership campaign team to the Information Commissioner regulator , accusing them of hacking into the party's membership database. 

Sources close to Labour leadership frontrunner Sir Keir Starmer have claimed dirty tricks by party insiders, after members of his team were reported to the Information Commissioner over an alleged breach of data protection rules. Sources claim that the supposed breach had in fact arisen as a result of Starmer officials checking out an allegation that one of the other candiates, Rebecca Long Bailey, may have broken the rules.

Two members of the shadow Brexit secretary’s team are understood to have been accused of hacking into the party’s membership database. These allegations were made against two members of Sir Keir's team and one of them is his compliance official. Starmer's team have said that these claims were "utter nonsense". However, the allegations are serious, and the confrontation has engulfed the campaign in bitter recrimination.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is the UK's independent body set up to uphold information rights and enforce data protection legislation. The watchdog has the power to fine any organisation found to have misused data in any way.
The ICO has confirmed it had received a report of a membership database breach, and would make inquiries.

The Labour Aprty General Secretary has made a formal referral to the Information Commissioner's Office over an alleged breach of data protection rules by members of the frontrunner's campaign team.The Labour Party could be fined up to £15m for failing to protect members' data. 

It was seen by allies of Sir Keir as an attempt to undermine his campaign, however, the move could backfire after the ICO confirmed the Labour Party itself would be the focus of any investigation, since it is legally responsible for securing members' information as the "data controller".

The potential fines for data protection failings have significantly increased as a result of changes to the Data Protection Act last year, which enacted the European General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) in UK law.

Although there are a range of sanctions the ICO is able to issue for data protection failures, the maximum fine the party could face if it were found to have failed to secure the data could be more than £15m. The regulations stipulate that infringements of the principles for processing personal data are subject to the highest tier of GDPR administrative fines, which are set at the equivalent of €20m, or 4% of an organisation's total worldwide annual turnover if that is higher.

The allegation reported to the ICO suggested two members of Sir Keir's leadership campaign staff may have improperly accessed membership data via the "Dialogue" database. It is understood the Starmer campaign was attempting to demonstrate Ms Long-Bailey's campaign had breached rules by sharing a link to the Dialogue database with her supporters, a claim her team denies. The ICO is making enquiries into the issue following the referral from the Labour Party but has not yet confirmed whether a full investigation is to be launched.

in 2019 the ICO issued a record fine of £183m to British Airways for failing to sufficiently protect personal data, saying poor security arrangements had allowed passenger login, payment card, address and booking information to be compromised.
Ahead of the general election the ICO published guidelines for political parties setting out their responsibilities for handling data. 

It is understood all the eligible Labour Pary leadership candidates are required to guarantee that campaign information, including confidential data about supporters, will be stored securely and processed lawfully before it is given to them. 

Labour officials told two members of Starmer’s team that the Information Commissioner’s Office had been alerted about claims that staffers had “data-scraped”, effectively hacked, information from the party membership system. The Starmer campaign team says the inquiry began only after it alerted Labour to a potential data breach included in an email sent by Long-Bailey’s team to her supporters.

Sky News:      BBC:      Independent:        Guardian:     Image: tripod

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