These words “subject access request” meant nothing to me until yesterday when I learnt that the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) developed this phrase to allow people like you and me to demand that organisations which are registered under the ICO to disclose information they store on us. I am grateful to Greg Hadfield for pointing this out following my tweets to the local Labour Party. I was concerned following the widespread disclosures that around 100,000 individuals who had applied to join the Labour Party were being denied a vote in the Labour leadership contest. Many of them, it is claimed had been denied their vote based on decisions taken at a local level regarding the voting behaviour of these individuals. Several senior MPs disclosed on national radio that one of the ways in which the ‘dissenters’ had been identified had been through canvassing returns. These are the records that are kept of discussions with voters during the canvassing period prior to elections. I have always gone out of my way to engage in a positive manner with canvassers from political parties that bother to call at my door. I have no recollections of ever having a doorstep conversation with any Conservative, UKIP or even Lib Dem candidate or party worker. It is almost as though they know I don’t vote for them. Equally I have regularly been doorstepped by both Green and Labour Parties and surprise surprise these are the two parties I have voted for. It appears from the regular discussions with different people that some details of my voting record or general support for these parties are stored. Clearly wherever the nature of this data, linked to my address and name, then the Party must be registered by the ICO for storing data. I confess until now I had no real concern about this, but hearing that other people have been denied the opportunity to join the Labour Party simply because of such doorstep discussions, it seems that now is a good time to find out what data they do actually have stored on me!
According the ICO website a subject access request which is a right is “commonly referred to as subject access, is created by section 7 of the Data Protection Act. It is most often used by individuals who want to see a copy of the information an organisation holds about them. However, the right of access goes further than this, and an individual who makes a written request and pays a fee is entitled to be:
- told whether any personal data is being processed;
- given a description of the personal data, the reasons it is being processed, and whether it will be given to any other organisations or people;
- given a copy of the information comprising the data; and given details of the source of the data (where this is available).
The website also explains “A request sent by email or fax is as valid as one sent in hard copy. Requests may also be validly made by means of social media”
As soon as I read the tweet from Greg Hadfield, I sent a tweet to our local Labour Party and the Leader, Cllr Warren Morgan to ask for them to disclose the data that is held on me. I intend to remind them about the request regularly until they respond positively. I hope that if other people do the same depending on which parties they usually engage with that this might finally get the message through to these Parties that they need to reform their practices in the same way that banks have reformed their selling of products such as PPI. Its vital that in the future all parties stop treating us as though they are running some form of secret service agency. If I want to join a group such as RSPB, National Trust, RHS or a religious organisation (such as a Church) that my application will be treated entirely on its merits. Yet despite this membership carries with it such benefits of being able to choose leaders, or to help set policy decisions. It appears that only Political Parties pay so much attention to what people believed in the past.