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The Great Conservative Election Data-Trawl Continues

Byline Times has spotted four more instances of questionable data collection by parliamentary candidates. Can you help this newspaper find more?

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In mid-April, a number of allegations emerged about Conservative Party candidates collecting voter data ahead of the next election – potentially for campaigning purposes – without clearly indicating those intentions. Byline Times’ VoteWatch team has now clocked four more instances of dubious data harvesting. 

In Chelmsford, Conservative MP Vicky Ford has sent constituents a “safety survey” asking for their priorities regarding local policing. The survey initially asks residents whether they have witnessed crime and what policies would make them “feel safe”  in the constituency. 

It goes on to solicit detailed personal information and requires contact details to submit. The survey asks about political leanings, even asking respondents to rank political parties and candidates.

In the tiny text at the bottom of the screen, it reads: “This question contains special category data relating to your political opinion that may be shared with the wider Conservative Party for the purposes of Democratic Engagement with your permission. Please only answer this question if you consent to the processing of this data and sharing it with Conservative Party. If you do not answer this question then this data will not be shared.” 

Meanwhile, in South Shropshire, Stuart Anderson MP is running a similar survey initiative, this time about “sav[ing] our recycling centres”.

Again, Anderson’s survey begins innocuously with several questions about local policies. After a few pages, it asks constituents for detailed information about their party-political history and voting intentions, and the same notice as above – once again in tiny, barely legible, text – appears beneath it. 

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Alicia Kearns, Conservative MP for Rutland and Stamford, has also sent local residents a survey.

In addition to local policy questions, it asks constituents: “How likely is it that you would vote for Alicia in the next election?” The only data notice respondents are given is a (very small) note about the local party’s “Data Protection and Privacy Policy”. 

In Watford, Byline Times has seen a leaflet promoting Dean Russell MP that appears as a newspaper cover and uses a Labour-red colour scheme and font. A QR code on the page sends people to a questionable-looking survey in a pop-up window, asking voters about their “local policing priorities”.

The survey requires detailed contact information to submit, and a tick-box at the bottom asks respondents to consent to their privacy policy and receive campaigning material from the Conservative Party (the only time the party is mentioned at all in the process).

Under current UK electoral law, it is difficult to assess the legality of such surveys.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has stated that, while targeted, data-driven social media advertising is widely used in British politics today, “it’s important that it is clear to people if they are being targeted” – and that “parties should make it clear that people’s personal information will be used to send them specific social media advertising”. 

These cases may fall under a grey area. As in the first two examples, respondents are technically informed about how their data will be used, but that information is arguably not presented in a clear manner.

Digital issues can be particularly difficult to contend with under current election rules. The Law Commission has argued previously that the UK’s “Victorian era electoral laws are out-dated, confusing, and no longer fit for purpose”. 

As of yet, it is unclear whether the ICO will be investigating any of these cases.

If you spot similar instances of questionable data harvesting, get in touch by emailing and consider reporting it to the ICO. 

Byline Times needs your help to investigate disinformation and electoral exclusion as we head towards the 2024 General Election.

We’re asking for your help to keep track of dodgy campaigning this election, so if you spot anything that bears investigation, please email us at

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