Sinn Féin has defended its plans to use its controversial voter database in the upcoming Dublin Bay South by-election.
The Data Protection Commissioner has contacted the party over its sophisticated Abú voter system – which records names, addresses and potential voting intentions of people all across Ireland.
The party has said the system is based on information from the Electoral Register, which is freely available to all political parties.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Sinn Féin Housing Spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin said the system does the same thing political parties have always done – in digital form.
“I have intimate knowledge of this system and obviously the Data Protection Commissioner will get every shred of information that she wants,” he said.
“But all this system does – albeit on a more professional basis – is enable me, when I am fighting an election here in Dublin West, to do what I have always done but just do it in a more professional way.
“There is no taking information from Facebook or social media; there is no uploading that information on the system.”
“Facebook is king”
He said a digital training seminar run by the party which encouraged members to talk to people on Facebook and get personal information off them was “very badly worded.”
“What the sentence was saying and I have to say, having read the sentence, I think it was very badly worded, is that we want to try and move from online engagement with people to in-person.
“So, if somebody is engaging with me online around party policy etc. what I should be trying to do with that person, in a very open and honest way, is move from the online to the real world.
“It is not about taking information or uploading that information anywhere. That is actually not possible on the Abú system because the Abú is the register and register plus voting intentions.
“Lots of other political parties do this on a constituency basis. For years, we did it with paper and pen and again, obviously, the Data Protection Commissioner is the body that has the legal responsibility to ensure compliance.”
Data Protection Commissioner
He said the party would take the findings of the Data Protection Commissioner “very, very seriously” and will implement any changes she recommends to the system.
“The central allegation that has been made - that the party is eliciting information without people's consent from social media, uploading that on some fictional database and then using that to micro-target voters - is not true,” he said. “That cannot and does not happen.”
You can listen back here: