Alleged data theft ‘used to pester voters’ – inquiry ‘should be re-opened’

Anti-corruption campaigner Andy Erlam
Fighting on: Anti-corruption campaigner and election petitioner Andy Erlam

An anti-corruption campaigner is urging the Information Commissioner to reopen an investigation into the alleged theft of thousands of Tower Hamlets residents’ personal data.

It is claimed that last year Tower Hamlets First (THF) – the now disbanded party of former mayor Lutfur Rahman – wrongly accessed the residents’ database of Tower Hamlets Homes, which manages the borough’s 21,000 council homes.

The party allegedly used tenants’ names and contact details to send out text messages to drum up support for Rabina Khan.

Cllr Khan was the Tower Hamlets First candidate for mayor in the re-run election, which was held in June 2015 after Mr Rahman’s election had been overturned.

According to a locally run website LoveWapping, the text message read: “Dear Supporter / Vote RABINA KHAN this Thurs 11th June / Decide who runs the borough and your future / Your vote makes a difference”.

Residents who had apparently had never shared their details with Mr Rahman’s party received the message.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) subsequently launched an investigation into the allegations.

It has now completed its inquiry and says it will take no further action.

Andy Erlam is one of the four residents who brought the election petition that saw Lutfur Rahman removed from office.

He is urging the ICO to think again about its decision not to proceed with further action.

Mr Erlam said: “I have complained to the Information Commissioner that it [The ICO] should not have dropped its investigation but instead proceeded to prosecutions.

“The alleged theft of personal data – including mobile phone numbers – used to pester and even intimidate voters is very worrying. I have asked the Commissioner to re-open the inquiry.”

Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, called the response “unsatisfactory” and has promised to follow up the matter.

He told the East End Citizen: “I will continue to support residents in their pursuit of the information.”

An ICO spokesperson said: “Our investigation into the historic incident at Tower Hamlets Homes has finished and we are satisfied there is no further action to be taken.

“Our regulatory action is targeted and proportionate and this case did not meet the criteria for enforcement action.

“Anyone who has concerns about the way their personal information has been used should report those concerns to us.”

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