Sinn Féin has yet to respond to concerns over Facebook data collection

Commissioner cannot adjudicate on potential infringement of data laws until party responds
Sinn Féin has yet to respond to concerns over Facebook data collection

A spokesman for Data Commisioner Helen Dixon said it is not yet possible to adjudicate on denials from Sinn Féin that it had fallen foul of data legislation. Picture: Cyril Byrne, The Irish Times

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has yet to hear from Sinn Féin over concerns raised about the collection of data from Facebook to target voters for engagement.

It has been reported that Sinn Féin officials have been urged to cross-reference data taken from Facebook profiles with Sinn Féin’s own searchable digital electoral register database, Abú.

A spokesman for the commissioner, Helen Dixon, said it is not yet in a position to adjudicate on denials from the party that it has fallen foul of data laws.

Electoral register 

The party’s finance spokesman, Pearse Doherty, yesterday said its Abú canvassing system is merely the electoral register, which is made available to all political parties and elected representatives for electoral purposes as a part of the democratic process.

He strongly rejected any suggestion the party had broken any rules.

However, public expenditure minister Michael McGrath said Mary-Lou McDonald’s party would be “shouting from high heaven” if it was any other party involved.

Mr McGrath said: “I think undoubtedly if the shoe was on the other foot and these questions are being raised by the State’s watchdog in relation to Fianna Fáil, or Fine Gael or any other party, Sinn Féin would be shouting from high heaven.

I think the sooner we hear from them in detail to answer the questions, the better.

Mr McGrath said there is “an element” of Sinn Féin keeping their heads down on the issue.

Data collected on Facebook

It is understood this data was collected on Facebook to target voters for engagement, including a doorstep canvass. It emerged last weekend that the party had asked officials working for it to use personal information posted on people’s Facebook pages to identify where they live.

“The Data Protection Commissioner believes that they have questions to answer, and I would expect Sinn Féin as the main party of opposition to fully cooperate,” Mr McGrath told Newstalk.

“I think that the sooner that they can answer those questions publicly to address any concerns that members of the public have about how their data is being used the better."

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