Tory MP accused of breach of data protection laws

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt is accused of breaching data protection laws by allegedly harvesting emails from a survey without consent.

tom hunt data breach
Derry Salter

An East Anglia Tory MP is accused by constituents of a breach of the data protection laws, and they have informed the Data Commissioner.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt is accused of sending out misleading correspondence, in order to harvest data for improper use by the Conservative Party.

The issue began with an apparently innocuous survey circulated to Ipswich voters by Mr Hunt’s office during August, asking questions on voters’ main concerns about the town.

Surprise correspondence

Two of those who responded were Derry Salter and her father Sean.  They were surprised, however, when two weeks ago, out of the blue they both received correspondence from the Conservative Party promoting their forthcoming conference.

Neither Sean nor Derry had any other previous connection with the party, so the promotional email to them both so soon after the survey seemed a curious coincidence.  Derry is a third year journalism student at Cardiff University and is aware of the data protection laws.

Derry explains

What I found interesting in the survey was that we were asked to score how likely we were to vote for each party, which I found weird,” she explains.

I wasn’t going to give away who I was going to vote for, so I scored all parties the same.  Maybe it was because I didn’t post ‘zero’ for the Tories that attracted their attention.

I sent my concerns about what had happened to Tom Hunt, telling him I’d really like to discuss this.  I told him what had happened and that I think it’s unfair and I’d like him to address it.

That was two weeks ago, and since then I’ve heard nothing.  I think that’s quite bad, and very suspicious.

Potential data breach

If it were a data breach, the attempt seems to be not only to garner potentially useful email addresses, but also to assess voters’ likely voting patterns.  All this under the guise of asking Ipswich people about what is best for their town.

The nature of the exercise also suggests to some that the survey idea may have originated not with Tom Hunt, but with Tory HQ.  If so, it seems unlikely to have been a scheme dreamed up for a single marginal constituency.

Tom Hunt was unavailable for comment.

In that case there may be many other constituencies in which the sitting Tory MP has ‘fronted’ an attempt to gather information, by using a survey or something similar.  EAB would be interested to hear from any readers who have also had a similar approach.

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