Sinn Féin must come clean on controversial database and tell us why it has been closed down

16th April 2021 - Peter Burke TD

Sinn Féin must come clean on their controversial international database and admit whether they received consent to store, manage and harvest data from Facebook users for supposed electoral purposes, Fine Gael Minister of State Peter Burke has said.

Minister Burke said it is not acceptable that after almost a week, Sinn Féin has not addressed legitimate concerns and answered questions on who has created this database – the Abú system.

“Sinn Fein continues to remain silent on whether the party has received consent to upload peoples’ data on to this internal secret database, despite consistently being asked about it since media reports emerged last weekend.

“Sinn Féin has claimed it is fully compliant with GDPR requirements, so why was the system shut down after the Data Protection Commissioner wrote to the party this week seeking information it is holding on millions of Irish voters.

“The party’s treasurer, Deputy Pearse Doherty, told ‘Today with Claire Byrne’ on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning unequivocally that Sinn Féin do not note peoples’ political views on Facebook and input information to the database.

“But the Deputy’s claim is totally at odds with Sinn Féin’s digital training manual, published in media, which highlights how it encourages members to elicit information from Facebook users.

“The 16-page manual directs local representatives and canvassers to ‘pinpoint’ where someone lives, mark them as hard/soft party support/opposition on the Abú register and ‘tag them as social-media engaged and follow up with a canvass on their doorstep’.

“Deputy Doherty said this morning other parties use the electoral register, but Sinn Féin ‘has its own’ system. It is very clear the electoral register and the Abú system used by the party are two very different things, with the latter containing peoples’ political views.

“It also appears Sinn Féin has transferred this register to its own online system and inputted peoples’ political views on it – accessible to unknown Sinn Fein activists.

“This has been done without the express consent of individuals and leading experts have now said this is in breach of GDPR. Yet Sinn Féin won’t address this. Where is the server held and how it is paying for this highly sophisticated technology?

“Why has the details of millions of Irish voters been put on an international server in an unknown location? Also is this system used in the North, how was that paid for and has it been recorded?

“If Pearse and his colleagues are so confident that there has been no wrongdoing, why was the database shut down this week?

“Why have they not made a comment on their digital strategy? We are used to Sinn Féin criticising Government on multiple issues every day of the week, yet they have remained unusually quiet on this issue despite legitimate concerns over a potential data breach.

“I am happy that the Data Protection Commissioner is investigating this matter. However, I am calling on Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald to end her silence and outline outstanding questions as to where this system is managed, who is controlling it, if consent has been received and why has it been shut down,” Minister Burke concluded.

 

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