Lifecycle Marketing first scalp in ICO political ad probe

DataIQ News

The Information Commissioner’s Office has confirmed it has fined Lifecycle Marketing - the business which owns pregnancy and childcare service Emma’s Diary - £140,000 for illegally collecting and selling personal information belonging to more than one million people.

The fine, which was flagged up last month, is the first for a data broking company from the ICO's investigation into the use of analytics in political advertising. The probe has already led to the closure of Cambridge Analytica and heavy criticism of Facebook. The ICO has announced its intention to fine the social media giant the maximum £500,000 permitted under the Data Protection Act 1998.

However, the regulator has warned that it has outstanding enquiries with a number of other companies,including the firm at the centre of the Lifecycle Marketing case, Experian.

The ICO's probe discovered that Lifecycle Marketing sold the data it gathered unlawfully to Experian, specifically for use by the Labour Party. Experian then created a database which the party used to profile the new mums in the run up to the 2017 General Election.

The Labour Party was then able to send targeted direct mail to mums living in areas with marginal seats about its intention to protect Sure Start Children’s centres.

The ICO investigation found that Emma’s Diary’s privacy policy did not disclose that the personal information given would be used for political marketing or by political parties. This is a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said “The relationship between data brokers, political parties and campaigns is complex. Even though this company was not directly involved in political campaigning, the democratic process must be transparent.

“All organisations involved in political campaigning must use personal information in ways that are transparent, lawful and understood by the UK public.”

The ICO has put the UK’s 11 main political parties on notice to have their data-sharing practices audited later this year.