The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) recommended that Sinn Féin inform voters of its Abú database with an opinion on all canvassing and campaign literature.
In a report released today, the commissioner said this should continue as long as the Abú database continues to exist.
Today’s post follows reports in the Irish Independent earlier this year about the alleged storage of voter personal information in an internal party database by Sinn Féin.
The DPC then decided to carry out data protection audits of the processing of voters’ personal data by all political parties.
With respect to Sinn Féin, he found that the sample of door-to-door literature made no reference to the Abú database or to the fact that door-to-door information can be processed in that database.
The auditors found that the total number of eligible voters marked on their political opinions on the Abú system was 5.85% of the total number of voters on the database.
Seven political parties have conducted market research or opinion polls using their own members, supporters or activists.
The DPC expressed its satisfaction that no personal data was processed during these activities by the political parties concerned.
Political parties that process personal data revealing the political opinions of more than 30,000 voters should now appoint data protection officers.
This means that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are now required to have protection officers and both have done so.
Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party have been urged to update their privacy policies to reflect their use of voters’ lists.
Fine Gael Senator John Cummins called on Sinn Féin to “downgrade” its Abú database following the publication of the DPC report.
“More than 203,000 voters had their voting intentions recorded in this secret system. This is the equivalent of the population of Cork City,” he said.
However, Sinn Féin’s housing, local government and heritage spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said his party had been closely engaged with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner throughout the audit and was in the process of implementing all recommendations.
“We welcome the conclusion of the Data Protection Commissioner confirming the use by Sinn Féin of the electoral lists for electoral purposes. This has been a useful exercise in safeguarding the democratic process,” he said.
Additional reports: Mícheál Lehane