Sinn Féin to face Oireachtas committee questions over online activity
Sinn Féin will have to answer questions in relation to the party’s online activities and how they relate to data protection before an Oireachtas committee.
The move comes after the Irish Independent revealed that Sinn Féin representatives have been told to use personal information posted online by Facebook users to identify their home address.
An internal digital training seminar for party organisers shows they were told to “engage” with Facebook users to “elicit more specific information”.
They were told they could cross-reference information gleaned online with the party’s electoral database system, Abú.
Sinn Féin have said they are not “data mining” Facebook users’ personal information.
Fine Gael senator John Cummins wrote to the chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Steven Matthews, asking him to schedule time for questioning of Sinn Féin in the context of their pre-legislative scrutiny of the Electoral Reform Bill.
All political parties will now come before the committee to answer questions on their own party’s online activities and how they relate to data protection.
TDs and senators agreed yesterday in a private meeting that representatives from all parties will come before the committee and answer questions on data protection and social media. Members will get the opportunity to examine how data is managed by political parties as some parties do not have a central system.
The focus of the meeting will be on the parties’ electoral register, online activities and advertising.
It is understood that all parties will be invited to send a representative, including the independent groupings.
In his letter, Mr Cummins said he had “deep concern” about Sinn Féin’s Abú system, which he noted the Data Protection Commissioner had raised a series of questions about.
“I believe there is an onus on our committee to set aside time to invite a senior representative(s) of Sinn Féin before us to answer a series of questions on the reports that data is being gathered online and integrated into their Abú voter system,” the senator added.
“The learnings from these interactions could and should have a bearing on the Electoral Reform Bill which we are currently examining.
“It is crucial that this bill is robust enough to ensure that all parties in this State operate on a level playing field and that protections are implemented to avoid outside interference in our democratic system,” he said.
The move comes after Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien called on the party leader of Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, to address the Dáil about her party’s secret voter database.
“I have always had concerns about how Sinn Féin operate in the shadows and now some of those shadowy dealings have come to light and they have got to address it,” Mr O’Brien told the Sunday Independent.
He said Sinn Féin needs to say say how the database came about.