The Conservative party has been rebuked by the Information Commissioner over its use of a call centre to influence voters during June’s general election campaign.
Steve Eckersley, the head of enforcement at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), issued the censure after an undercover investigation by Channel 4 News into the South Neath call centre, which was used to carry out market research.
The ICO launched an inquiry into the campaign’s compliance with data protection and electronic marketing law earlier this year.
In a blog, Eckersley said: “We’ve found that two small sections of the written scripts used by those making the calls crossed the line from legitimate market research to unlawful direct marketing. We’ve warned the Conservative party to get it right next time.”
He said questions about voting intentions, finding out which prime minister someone might prefer or generally encouraging people to go out to vote were all legitimate market research.
But if questions were framed in a way to gain support – either now or at some point in the future – that crossed the line into direct marketing, which could be intrusive, he said.
Direct marketing – through emails, texts or phone calls – is regulated by the ICO under privacy and electronic communications regulations.
The ICO said the paragraphs of concern contained to references to Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in relation to policy choices.
However, the watchdog said it had stopped short of formal regulatory action because the overall campaign was genuine market research and the two problematic sections were not enough to trigger formal enforcement action when considered along with the campaign as a whole.
South Wales police are conducting a separate investigation into the campaign.
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