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Sinn Féin appointed officer to manage voter database only after being contacted by DPC

The so-called “Abú system” has become the source of controversy in recent days.

Image: RTÉ

SINN FÉIN LEADER Mary Lou McDonald has said that her party has appointed a data protection officer to manage the details of Irish voters whose information is being stored in Germany.

The information stored on the party’s so-called “Abú system” has become the source of controversy in recent days, with the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) raising a number of concerns about it.

It was initially reported by the Sunday Independent that party officials were told to use personal information posted online to establish the address of a potential voters.

McDonald has insisted the database is nothing more than information contained on the electoral register, amid claims Sinn Féin was collecting data on voters from Facebook.

But the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has sought information about how it uses its database and the information it has collected from social media.

Commissioner Helen Dixon wrote to the party seeking confirmation about whether the Abú system is GDPR compliant.

There were also concerns that the party had not appointed a designated data protection officer to manage the personal data of voters.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, McDonald said the appointment of a data protection officer and the undertaking of a data impact assessment – to gauge any risks of personal information being gathered – happened only after the DPC contacted the party.

Data protection legislation states that an organisation must appoint a data protection officer must be appointed if personal data is regular and systemically monitored on a large scale.

“It’s by way of meeting what was a gap in the compliance,” McDonald said.

But the Sinn Féin leader insisted that the database was similar to information gathered by other political parties.

“Just to say, the document in question, the information or the data that’s being cited, is the electoral register,” she said.

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“And it’s a tool that’s used by all political parties legitimately for the purposes of canvassing in election contests. And the law around data allows specifically for political parties to hold this special category information.”

Sinn Féin previously denied it is “microtargeting” people using data collected from Facebook and the electoral register.

Earlier this week, housing spokesperson Eoin O Broin said the party’s system of using public information about voters is “fully compliant” with the law.

He added that the party has provided full responses to all the questions posed by the Data Protection Commissioner.

- Contains reporting by Stephen McDermott.

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