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Coffee House

Tories accidentally leak campaign database

3 June 2014

6:30 PM

3 June 2014

6:30 PM

The Conservatives have accidentally emailed a database of their activists’ details to other members, Coffee House has learned. The database, called ‘volunteer record NEWARK’ was accidentally attached to a generic thank you email for those campaigning in the by-election, and contained the email addresses of activists and MPs who had signed in at a certain station in the constituency.

Sent from a generic email address belonging to the Tory chairman, the email thanked activists for visiting Newark, and asked them to continue campaigning by visiting the constituency again on polling day or making calls to voters from home or CCHQ. The database was attached at the bottom.

This isn’t a major data leak: the email addresses of the MPs involved are often publicly available anyway and the email was halted as soon as the mistake was noticed. A Tory source says:

‘A member of the correspondence team made an administrative error, with an email that was sent to a small number of Conservative activists.’

But the activists named in the database did not agree to their details being shared. One activist who contacted Coffee House about the leak said:

‘It’s concerning that in the absence of any consent my email address, along with hundreds of others, has been shared with what I’d reckon to be around a thousand strangers, in an email signed by a cabinet minister. Obviously CC/BCC screw-ups happen from time to time, but the way this was done is just peculiar.’

The Tories have been having other data problems recently. Some constituencies found that when the party’s rather temperamental Merlin voter data system updated with the latest details of the electoral roll in their area, thousands of records disappeared because local authorities had changed some of their data fields. Only those who had backed up their data were able to recover entries on voting intention from hours of canvassing, which has led to some grumbles among those running campaigns in marginal seats where this kind of data really matters. There’s not much the party can do, though, given it’s information coming from local authorities, but it won’t stop gripes about Merlin, which does look set to run into the General Election.

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