In yet another case that you really couldn’t make up, the Tories, on the eve of their party conference in Birmingham, have shown the world how utterly inept they are when it comes to understanding the modern world. While today’s Observer tells “Tories demand urgent action to curb children’s social media use”, the Telegraph, to its credit, shows why The Blue Team is in no position to call out anyone on their use of technology.
“Tory fury as party faces huge fine for ‘disgraceful’ data breach” howls the headline, echoing the anger in party ranks after their conference app was shown to be leakier than a worn-out colander. Guardian journalist Dawn Foster had discovered that it was possible to log in as anyone in the party with no more than an email address - no password required. The app was supposed to be the centrepiece of renewed Tory confidence on technology.
Now, party chairman Brandon “barrow boy” Lewis will not be quite so full of himself when he tells the faithful how great they are at tech. Not when Michael “Oiky” Gove’s photo on that app got replaced by one of Rupert Murdoch, and that of London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson by, er, well, let’s not go there.
We've now mastered this technology business. Or maybe not
But all of that is a mere hors d’oeuvres for the more substantial entrée that only begins with the potential of a whopping fine faced by the Tories for putting this horrendously insecure app out there. Because behind all of this is a king-sized can of worms for which some in and around the party have a lot of explaining to do.
What has already been unearthed suggests not merely ineptitude, but mendaciousness and the kind of unprincipled behaviour shocking even for the Tories. Peter Jukes of Byline Media kicked off this journey of discovery by telling “The uCampaign App, developed by a Ukrainian military veteran, funded by US billionaire close to #CambridgeAnalytica, specifically named in @DamianCollins DCMS with 'major privacy concerns'. And yet the Tory Party still used it”. Ey up, it’s Cambridge Analytica again. And there is more.
“Thanks to @brexit_sham for podcast from the uCampaign app developer, Thomas Peters, we have DIRECT EVIDENCE #CambridgeAnalytica data was 1) Used by Vote Leave 2) Used by Trump and 3) Now deployed by the Conservative Party”. And then comes a connection that will raise more than a few eyebrows.
“More on the uCampaign App: it's only a YEAR old. And was recommended by the editor of @ConHome”. The editor of Conservative Home. Mark Wallace. Who is an alumnus of the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance. A group led at the time by … Matthew Elliott, now mired in the illegal behaviour of Vote Leave. Connected to Cambridge Analytica.
Jukes had one more snippet of information to impart: “This app, with all its security flaws and lack of GDPR compliance was recommended to Conservative Activists. There was an incentive”. Points. And what do points make, viewers?
No prizes for guessing that the Tories would be in deep enough shit with just that, but what Privacy Matters has now unearthed makes matters potentially much worse. “The app … Embedded in the Conservative Campaigner ’the the official mobile app for supporters of The Conservative Party’ are four trackers”. What are their significance?
“The trackers include Facebook Analytics, Facebook Login, Facebook Share, and Google Firebase Analytics - an issue right there”. Oooh, Facebook Login. Some serious potential for data harvesting there. And where is that data heading?
What conclusion can be reached? “So what data exactly is being processed by the embedded trackers and for what purposes? What is the legal basis under the GDPR? Does the uCampaign as the developer of the app have access to that data or otherwise harvest it? Is the data held on uCampaign servers in the US?”
Well, well ... look who's here
Some potentially seriously bad behaviour has been going on. Moreover, we can be reasonably certain that those indulging in that potential behaviour are not going to pony up an explanation voluntarily. The most unsettling aspect of this fiasco is not Bozza becoming, shall we say, an even more upstanding member. Nor is it the prospect of a £2 million fine.
It is the industrial scale data harvesting from, ultimately, millions more individuals without their explicit permission, and without their knowledge. Worse, some of those who may be involved have already been found to have participated in illegal enterprises.
The impression of criminality is inescapable. The Tories must not be let off this hook.
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