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SF voter database is legal but should be flagged – DPC
Pic: Shutterstock

21 Dec 2021 / data law Print

SF voter database legal but should be flagged – DPC

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has said that voters should know about Sinn Féin's Abú database through its canvassing and electioneering literature.

An audit of data protection by political parties has found that Sinn Féin is the only political party in Ireland that maintains a database that encompasses electors'/voters' data.

The DPC finds that this is legal but that the electorate should know about it.

"The audit of Sinn Féin considered in detail the matter of the legal basis for the Abú database and found it was not necessary to make recommendations in that regard.

Canvassing

“However, one of the main data protection concerns that arose related to transparency and a recommendation was made in particular with regard to drawing attention to the existence of the Abú database by means of canvassing and electioneering literature."

The Abú data is compiled from register of electors information held by the relevant city or county council, and register data obtained from the Registrar of Dáil Éireann or the local authority, and data yielded from canvassing activities.

Fewer than 6% of voters have their support marked in the database.

"Having inspected the Abú database, the Authorised Officers noted that the total number of eligible voters that are marked as to their political opinions is currently approximately 5.85% of the overall number of voters on the database. In other words, data in respect of approximately 94.15% of the eligible voters shown on the Abú database is combined Register of Electors and Marked Electoral Register data without any indicators as to the political opinions of those electors/voters.      

Record

"The Authorised Officers established that the Abú database is not used to keep a record of representations made by constituents or members of the public on political or personal matters and they were told that it is not a database of comments made or of actions to be done. 

"Access to the database is strictly limited to trained users. Access is determined centrally by the database administrator. Access is controlled by geographical determinations and can be established on the basis of constituency through to townland (street) level on a granular basis," the report says.

The DPC also found a lag between data processing activity which began in September 2019 although a data protection impact assessment was not carried out until April 2021.

"The privacy policy for the Abú database was first published on the Sinn Féin website in April 2021. Prior to its publication, no information was made available to electors/voters in any format to comply with the transparency requirements in the GDPR."

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