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By G.A.Ponsonby 
 
The Labour party is today facing questions after it emerged that submissions to the Scottish Government Referendum Consultation may have been directed to a Labour party email address at the same time.
 
It has emerged that code behind the online form on the party’s Scottish website contains not one but two email addresses, one the genuine referendum consultation address hosted by the Scottish Government and another which is a UK Labour party address.

The code behind the form contains a field which describes the two addresses as "RecipientsAddresses".  Newsnet Scotland also discovered that a setting in the form rendered the email addresses invisible, we altered the setting to reveal them as shown below.

 

On discovering the extra email address, Newsnet Scotland immediately contacted the office of Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont to ask for an explanation.  We also copied the enquiry to the contact email address for Scottish Labour.

In our enquiry we asked:

  • Can you confirm that you are also sending these emails to a Labour party email address?
  • If so, can you confirm what is happening to the information contained in the forms when you receive these submissions?

Our enquiry received an acknowledgement from Ms Lamont’s office.  However despite sending the email on Friday morning, we have had no further communication from the party.

The revelations follow the recent controversy over the UK consultation after it emerged that 25% of the total number of submissions came via a form on a Labour party site.

Last weekend Labour’s Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar was asked on the Politics Show if Labour had been monitoring submissions to the consultation submissions made through forms on its website, to which he replied “absolutely”.

Mr Sarwar refused to elaborate what was meant by ‘monitor’ but confirmed that no submissions were allowed unless each user entered their name and email address, this he claimed ensured no anonymous submissions were possible.

The online form on the Labour site provides users with fields in which they enter their name and private email address before submitting their response to the consultation process.  On sending their submission each user is prompted to send further emails to friends and associates urging them to do the same.

There will now be concerns that the Labour party may have stored this personal data along with the views of each individual user – one of whom is a Newsnet Scotland volunteer.

There has been significant controversy surrounding both the UK Government’s referendum consultation and that of the Scottish Government.

The controversy centred around claims by Scottish Labour that the Scottish Government process had been designed for abuse and that the SNP were allowing so called ‘Cybernats’ to flood the process with duplicate and anonymous pro-independence messages.

However it subsequently emerged that there was no evidence of any such mass flooding of the Scottish Government’s consultation by SNP supporters and in fact anonymous submissions were proportionally no worse than the UK consultation.

Figures released by the Scottish Government also indicated there was no evidence of a problem with multiple submissions.  This was despite the Scottish consultation receiving over four times the response than the UK consultation where there were found to have been 118 duplicate entries.

Comments  

 
# km 2012-04-09 00:53
I note too that the second email address is haveyoursay@lab our.org.uk, whose corresponding postal address is The Labour Party, 39 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0HA....

None of this would matter, of course, if the on-line form had indicated that the sender's email and email address would be copied to Labour Party HQ in London.

But it didn't. Which implies that Labour is in breach of the Data Protection Act's Fair Processing Notice, which says that entities "...need to outline what and how information is going to be processed. This is to make sure the individual knows exactly what is going to happen to their information and how it is going to be used. You shouldn't be doing anything with personal information unless the individual is made aware (unless certain exemptions apply)".

A complaint to the Information Commissioner would be in order.
 
 
# PrideoftheClyde 2012-04-09 06:46
Not only have they not been forthcoming with where the information was going to be sent to and stored, I'm now more concerned about why it is they want this information sent to the Labour party HQ in the first place.

The Labour party has now (either by design or as a side-effect) accumulated a database of information which holds the personal details of people their views on issues surrounding the referendum. If the Labour party uses this information for ANY reason (i.e. email campaign etc) they would be in breach of the Data Protection Act.
 
 
# Siôn Jones 2012-04-09 11:48
I used the Lbour site to submit my entry - though I conveyed exactly the opposite views to the ones they(Labour) were hoping for - so my details have been appropriated illegally by London Labour. Anybody know what recourse in Law I might have to seek redress?
 
 
# Mei 2012-04-09 12:12
Did you receive an acknowledgment from the Scottish Government of your submission like this

Thank you for your response to the consultation. This has been passed to the Elections and Referendum Team.

If not did your sumission reach them unaltered.

If in doubt use the form on the SNP website

snp.org/.../...
 
 
# Holebender 2012-04-09 13:01
Why use the form on any political party's website when there is a perfectly simple and usable form on the government's own consultation website?

consult.scotland.gov.uk/.../
 
 
# denmylne 2012-04-09 16:30
yeah, me too.
how do we get our details removed from their data base??
 
 
# bobb4you 2012-04-09 01:12
Uh oh, busted!
 
 
# dundie 2012-04-09 05:38
Given their blatant (and secretive) contravention of the Data Protection Act, will there be any official investigation of this? It would appear that a crime (OK, perhaps a fairly minor one, but a crime nonetheless) has been committed. Have the police been informed?
 
 
# Robert Louis 2012-04-09 07:01
This isn't a minor crime. Companies get hauled through the courts ever week for doing this kind of thing.

It would be interesting to have the views of a legal person on this subject.

They do currently state on the page;

'The Scottish Labour Party may use the information you have provided to contact you. If you would rather not be contacted, please email scotland@labour .org.uk.'.

I'm really not convinced that was adequate.
 
 
# Early Ball 2012-04-09 05:45
Good stuff Newsnet.

Says a lot for the MSM. When Sarwar blurted out the "monitor" word, a journalist worth his salt should have been all over it like a rash to find out what he meant.
 
 
# PrideoftheClyde 2012-04-09 06:27
Totally agree. A Labour party politician could quite comfortably go onto a BBC Scotland political programme and suggest that he or she were quite into the idea of shoplifting. The interviewer wouldn't bat an eyelid and continue as if nothing was said.

I was pretty shocked when Isabel Fraser didn't bother to ask the simple question "What do you mean by monitor?" I have always found her to be usually quite fair and not asking the question could be put down to time constraints on the interview. But for the BBC to not follow this up is inexcusable. Especially when you consider the prominence this story had in the days following that interview, there was more than enough time to look at other aspects of this story.

Anti-independence politicians and supporters are being treated with kid gloves while the wrath of hell is being poured onto anyone who supports independence, particularly the SNP. Given the number of attack stories on the FM, which have increased significantly in the past days and weeks, it is clear that someone has called for the head of Alex Salmond.
 
 
# WingsOverScotland 2012-04-09 10:21
Quoting Early Ball:
Good stuff Newsnet.



Actually, the credit properly belongs to the readers of Wings Over Scotland - one of our commenters revealed this news four days ago:

wingsland.podgamer.com/.../
 
 
# Stevie Cosmic 2012-04-10 07:42
Indeed. But it was also on the comments section on an NNS thread about 3 or 4 days ago too. Possibly the same poster, the poster here cut and pasted the HTML code from the Labour site showing that the additional email address was hidden.

I've bookmarked your site incidentally, and I think everyone here should too. It's utterly compelling reading and incredibly well put together. I absolutely love it. I hope you guys continue at the 'cutting edge' for the next two years. Good stuff!
 
 
# cardrossian 2012-04-09 06:29
Why has this criminal offence not been been reported on either the BBC or Sky national news programmes? The whole of the UK should be made aware of the machinations of the Labour party. It appears that while the crooks may no longer gather in smoke filled rooms, nothing else has changed.
 
 
# veeloo 2012-04-09 06:30
You can send your complaint via email to: .gov.uk using the word document form provided:

ico.gov.uk/.../...

Alternatively, snail mail to:

First Contact Team
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
SK9 5AF
 
 
# dundie 2012-04-09 10:06
I have just done so, veeloo. I'll pass on any response.
 
 
# frankyB 2012-04-09 06:42
Let's pursue this until it becomes too embarassing for the BBC to ignore it.
 
 
# Exile 2012-04-09 06:44
"...anonymous submissions were proportionally no worse than the UK consultation..."

What's with the "worse"? Why on earth should people not be able to give their views anonymously? They are, after all, simply food for thought. Why has the Labour Party always got to kick up a stink about absolutely nothing?
 
 
# Robert Louis 2012-04-09 06:51
As the consultation link on the Labour website was open to the general public, this is suddenly rather serious indeed.

Serious, serious, trouble for Labour if this is true, not just in bad political coverage, but the possibility of prosecutions.
 
 
# Diabloandco 2012-04-09 07:03
I doubt the BBBC would ever be embarrassed into publishing something - they are too busy " covering"the Rangers debacle ,which must have limited appeal and the trials in the High Court with equally limited appeal.
I assume they do this so that they can claim they " prioritise" the news and therefore have no time left to tell Scotland that all hospitals have more than enough blankets , have less MRSA and C Diff than a couple of years ago and businesses are still interested in investing in Scotland.Not to mention any wise words from the Scottish Government.
 
 
# lurker1 2012-04-09 07:04
A bit off topic but labour have form with dodgy websites and data security...

theregister.co.uk/.../...
 
 
# cirsium 2012-04-09 12:00
lurker1 - it is not really off-topic. The incident in the link happened in 2011 with minimal consequences. Clearly they have improved their technique. Mr Sarwar accidentally gave the game away so, hopefully, with a complaint to the IOC, there will be consequences this time.
 
 
# UpSpake 2012-04-09 07:09
Labour Party in Scotland - Guilty !. Not a headline you are likely to see from the compliant media in Scotland. Far better they stick with SNP - Accused !.
And we are told we live in a democracy ?.
 
 
# J Wil 2012-04-09 07:25
Having contributed and submitted my identity to both consultations, I remember being given a reference number from the SG one so that if I wished I could go back and look at what I said. I don't remember any such instruction from the UK G one. My comments on the latter one would not have been what the UK G would have wanted to see and it would be interesting to know if my comments were still accessible in their consultation.

Surely it would be within the remit of the SG to complain if there is something illegal going on, but it would probably be better coming from a member of the public. It would be nice to see Moore being embarrassed after his big, bold announcement.
 
 
# thomsor 2012-04-09 07:55
After Isobel Fraser did not follow up on the monitor question I reckon Anas was thinking, I have just managed to get away with this one and I deserve more back slapping from my labour chums. I think you could lay bets on this story not being reported anywhere else. Corruption right at the top of Labour now tied in to Michael Moore and the Con/Dems.
 
 
# Sleekit 2012-04-09 13:33
OT - But not really

Got a story in Wings over Scotland covering Labours propensity to shoot themselves in the foot.

Labours Attack Boomerang

wingsland.podgamer.com/.../
 
 
# From The Suburbs 2012-04-09 08:27
Labour are sleekit a friend was telling me that an SNP MSP and Labour MP attended a local protest meeting and quick as a flash the Labour MP volunteered to take away all the petition forms with names and addresses and get his office to do all the secretarial work , at taxpayers expense.

Willie Bain on Radio Scotland this morning but not challenged about his remarks on never backing an SNP motion.
 
 
# Macart 2012-04-09 08:41
No so much 'caught wi their troosers doon' as do they ever actually pull them up?
 
 
# gfaetheblock 2012-04-09 08:42
There is a lot of talk about criminality and breaches of DPA, but with no facts to back this up. The information has been freely input to a website and can be retained for several years under DPA. Unless it is retained for longer or used incorrectly then there is no breach.
 
 
# Aplinal 2012-04-09 08:48
"Unless it is retained for longer or used incorrectly then there is no breach."

But if I did not know that it would be retained, is this not an offence? As it happens, I did not make a contribution via Labour's site - why would I if I am not a Labour person, but that is irrelevant.

The issue should be, can Labour (or any other organisation, for that matter), collect information from a contributor, which is without their knowledge or express permission? Is that not a contravention of the DPA?
 
 
# Jiggsbro 2012-04-09 09:47
The data were freely input to the Scottish Labour website and therefore Scottish Labour may use it for the stated purpose and retain it. What they may not do is pass it to another organisation - the UK Labour Party - for their use.
 
 
# Aplinal 2012-04-09 09:53
Hmmm. But Scottish Labour is not a separate organisation, is it? It IS the UK Labour party (albeit the "North Britain" branch), isn't it?
 
 
# Jiggsbro 2012-04-09 10:20
It's an 'Accounting Unit' according to the Electoral Commission, which means it's "a constituent or affiliated organisation that is responsible for its own financial affairs separately from those of a political party's central organisation". Whether that financial separation makes it a separate body for DPA purposes is unclear.
 
 
# Dundonian West 2012-04-09 11:19
Quoting Aplinal:
Hmmm. But Scottish Labour is not a separate organisation, is it? It IS the UK Labour party (albeit the "North Britain" branch), isn't it?

Quoting Aplinal:
Hmmm. But Scottish Labour is not a separate organisation, is it? It IS the UK Labour party (albeit the "North Britain" branch), isn't it?

Lamont is answerable to Milliband,as reported here on newsnetscotland yesterday or on Saturday.
She IS NOT the boss in Scotland,and the members in Scotland certainly aren't.
The makeover of giving her responsibility for the Scottish MSP's and MPsa a couple of months ago is a smokescreen.She's not in charge of her own hoose,and she knows it.
I have more personal responsibility in my profession than she will ever have as 'Leader' of the Labour Party in Scotland.
 
 
# Siôn Jones 2012-04-09 12:25
The stated purpose was to facilitate the submission of the information to the gov consultation, not for the convenience of the Labour party.
 
 
# Siôn Jones 2012-04-09 12:23
There was nothing to indicate that I was supplying my details, and those of my response, to the Labour party, for whatever use they might choose. Nor was there any option to opt out from their selling my details. Clearly illegal under the DPA.
 
 
# Mac 2012-04-09 08:47
Scottih Labour have abused both UK and Scottish government's referendum consultation processes with its attempts to flood both with hundreds of pro-forma submissions.

In contrast the Scottish Tories have not submitted any at all.

Whay does that say of both parties?
 
 
# ScotFree1320 2012-04-09 08:49
The only relevant paragraphs on the Privacy link at the foot of the page say:

Quote:
IP addresses and log file data
The Scottih Labour Party site does not automatically capture or store personal information, other than logging the user's IP Address or the location of your computer or network on the Internet, for systems administration and troubleshooting purposes. (If you are connected to the Internet you have an IP address, for example an IP address might read "154.198.99.9"). We also use IP addresses in the aggregate to track which pages people visit in order to improve the quality of the site.

Data collection and use
You may be asked for personal information if you complete one of the forms on this site. Please see below the information we ask for and what this information is used for.

In each case we will only use the information about you for the purpose for which you provide it. The Scottish Labour Party does not sell or disclose this information to outside organisations or individuals, nor transfer it outside the United Kingdom. You may remove or change your details at any time. You have right of access to your personal information held on our files by written request to the data protection officer (address below) and on payment of an administration fee.


So IS the information entered classed as personal information? I would say certainly, since this is a personal political view which is linked to an eMail address, which in turn links back to a person (if it was answered truthfully).

There is a vague catch-all statement to say that, "we will only use the information about you for the purpose for which you provide it." In my view as a computer programmer, this has not enough to describe what has actually happened to that information.

The purpose of the form was clearly to submit the views of the user about the referendum to the two consultations, a fact detailed to the right of the form:
Quote:
Sending the message on the left means you will send an email response to the Scottish Government consultation.

The UK Government consultation has ended.


On the Data Protection Act, Wikipedia says (bit.ly/HrvzvB):
2. Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.
5. Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes.

They have breached point 2 because they have - in a clandestine way - gathered a file of personably-identifiable information which cannot possibly be linked to the stated purpose for which it was intended.
They have breached point 5 because once the information was submitted to the consultations, it should have been destroyed. However they continue to hold it.

In my view, a crime has been committed. Labour now must come clean on why they went down this road and what that file is destined to be used for.
 
 
# BillDunblane 2012-04-09 09:30
What about Labour party members who didn't follow the party line and changed the wording for any reason - de-selection, or worse?

It would be very easy to extract and examine any responses that deviated from the original text.

I think this crass stupidity is the story that will matter. Labour will rue the day they tried to smear the SG consultation.

And it couldn't have come at a better time.

Now the BBC WON'T cover it, so we'd better hit all the newspapers.
 
 
# Mei 2012-04-09 09:45
I've sent a link to this story and the one about the dodgy poll at the scotsman to

don't hold your breath
 
 
# Mei 2012-04-09 09:50
This is the BBC contact form for news stories

news.bbc.co.uk/.../4032695.stm
 
 
# soosider 2012-04-09 10:37
Well I have emailed MS Lamont, to ask her to look into it, advising her that there could be a breach of the Data Protection Act. Having said that I suspect it is no more than a piece of redundant script, having used the original as template.
 
 
# Dundonian West 2012-04-09 10:50
veeloo.Above.7:30.Think your post is worthy of a second airing,and not gathering dust on a back shelf.
Thanks.

Quoting veeloo:
You can send your complaint via email to: .gov.uk using the word document form provided:

ico.gov.uk/.../...

Alternatively, snail mail to:

First Contact Team
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
SK9 5AF
 
 
# Oracle of the North 2012-04-09 11:05
Classic Labour doublespeak to use the name "haveyoursay" in the offending email address.
 
 
# D_A_N 2012-04-09 13:32
sorry if this has been posted already.

hidden nicely

bbc.co.uk/.../...
 
 
# Dundonian West 2012-04-09 14:45
STV has this on their on-line site.
news.stv.tv/.../...

They,unlike the BBC Scotland State Broadcaster,are permitting comments.
Surprisingly allowing free speech. Poster 345 hasn't been deleted.
 
 
# cokynutjoe 2012-04-09 15:05
Increasing desperation amongst Glasgow Labour as May approacheth,
hiddenglasgow.com/.../...
 
 
# Marga B 2012-04-09 16:16
OT but about surveillance of websites by government-licensed bodies - has anyone seen the story of "the company that vets disability benefit claimants on behalf of the government, which has gone to great lengths to control references to it online." (in today's Guardian)

It also apparently supports the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Paralympics.
 
 
# rapid 2012-04-09 18:35
Indeed, the ICO should be interested because this involves political opinion which is one of tbe few items of data that is classified as sensitive personal data and the act has special provisions for handling and processing such data especially if not all users of this page were members of the Labour party.
 
 
# RTP 2012-04-09 19:30
O/T
UK 'approved Libya rendition'

Oh dear here we have a story that Brown,Blair, Straw and the rest don't want to come out I wonder what Lamont will have to say about Lab complicit in this torture going on in Libya and they have the nerve to attack the SNP over Megrahi.
 
 
# Mad Jock McMad 2012-04-09 20:39
The elite is at it across the world remove the word Nepal stick in UK and you'll see what I mean;

www.nepalitimes.com/.../19180
 
 
# Hamish100 2012-04-09 21:43
Surely our MSP's can ask written or verbal questions about DPA & Labour in Parliament.
 
 
# Mad Jock McMad 2012-04-09 23:13
According to Labour's own standing orders the organisation running out of John Smith House is a 'Labour Region' not a seperate accounting entity. In fact it is clear that any money raised in Scotland during the recent GE campaign went straight to Labour HQ. For the Holoyrood election such was the state of Labour's Scottish region's petty cash they had to be subbed by Labour HQ, Unite and other Unions.

The whole reason for the forced tytheing Labour councillors to be are having to agree to is to try and raise some funds prior to the referendum campaign because part of the conditions will be they can only use money raised in Scotland, as it is a Scotland only referendum - those are the Electoral Commissions own rules.

One of the main Scottish Tory donors who routinely coughs up around half Scottish Tory donations has made it clear while Ruth is leader his hands, and those of the friends he taps, are staying in his pockets.

Now where does this leave the pro-Union side if a criminal action for breeches of the Data Protection Act are brought against Labour's Scottish Region and its Data Protection Officer - if they even have one - and where does this leave the Secretary of State for anywhere but Scotland's referendum 'consultation', based as it may well be on improperly gathered and stored data?

I am afraid to say that many CA's of all parties are operating data retention in a manner that could breech the Data Protection Act and guidance from HQ's has been, up until now, sparse and often conflicting on how the data collected can be used.
 
 
# Barontorc 2012-04-10 00:24
Maybe this will have to require a complaint to Frank Mulholland QC, Lord Advocate of Scotland and the country's chief Law Officer?

Or maybe, there will be some Scottish Government proactivity concerning this Data Protection issue?
 
 
# Mad Jock McMad 2012-04-10 07:47
Its official the New Labour Party are skint:

"Senior shadow cabinet members, shocked by Labour's Bradford West byelection defeat, are questioning whether Labour MPs should be debarred from standing in mayoral, and possibly police commissioners' elections, in a bid to prevent another wave of byelections that will drain the party's financial resources and possibly threaten safe Labour seats."

guardian.co.uk/.../...
 
 
# oldnat 2012-04-10 11:34
They clearly aren't much into local democracy either.

"Labour's ruling national executive committee (NEC) will hold an interview panel in the middle of May to select mayoral candidates" - so the local Labour party in cities like Birmingham won't have any say in who their candidate is to be?
 
 
# Barontorc 2012-04-10 12:13
Looks like the runes don't look so good for Milliband and Co and they definitely don't want to go into a by-election anywhere in England.

Also, must concur with comments elsewhere, that they've written Scotland off, evidenced by the cack-handed way they've been attempting to do business this side of Hadrian's Wall.

If Lamont's the best they can come up with - it looks odds-on Murphy's done a runner and left Scottish Labour to it.

PS. Or, could be they've sub-contracted out their opposition role to the BBC and Scotsman!
 
 
# Marga B 2012-04-10 17:09
That explains their MSPs but what about the MPs? They've got another 4 years to go, do they not? They have a lot of voters in Scotland.
 

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