Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has confirmed that her party’s voter database is being stored in Germany.
The information stored on the party’s so-called “Abu system” has become the source of controversy in recent days, with the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) raising a number of concerns.
Ms McDonald said the party had engaged with the DPC on the issue, and insisted the database is nothing more than information contained on the electoral register, amid claims they had been collecting data on voters from Facebook.
She said: “This isn’t something that’s unique to us. Every political party, every candidate who runs an election, canvasses the vote, has access to the electoral register, and it’s part and parcel of the process.
“The Abu system, as it’s called in our case, I don’t know what other political parties call theirs, is simply that.
“It is the returns, if you like, from canvasses. We’re no longer in the 1970s so it’s not pen and paper.
“It is stored in the European Union and it is all legally stored.”
Ms McDonald denied an accusation that the database is stored in Serbia, where it would not be subject to the EU’s GDPR rules on data protection.
She said the rumours about Serbia arose because a person working for the party is married to someone in the country.
“I think it’s unfortunate that because an individual happens to be married to somebody in Serbia, that becomes a point of controversy,” she told Newstalk on Thursday.
The database was previously stored in London, but moved to Frankfurt in Germany for legal reasons after Brexit, Ms McDonald said.
Addressing an allegation that the database contains information on which parties individuals were likely to vote for – which goes beyond the information in the electoral register – Ms McDonald said such a system “would not be crossing the line”.
She said: “Every political party, every political candidate users the electoral register to know who is registered to vote, and then to come and canvass your vote, and then to establish in their judgment the likelihood or otherwise of you voting for them.
“That is called special category information and data, it’s specifically referenced in the law and it is entirely legal.”
Earlier this week Sinn Féin denied it is “microtargeting” people using data collected from Facebook and the electoral register.
Eoin Ó Broin said the party’s system of using public information about voters is “fully compliant” with the law.
Mr Ó Broin said the party has provided full responses to all the questions posed by the Data Protection Commissioner.
“Our view is we’re fully compliant with the Data Protection Act of 2018,” he added.
“What we do with the electoral register is what any professional party does, we use the register to target our voters, and to ensure we get our vote out on election day – that is legally permissible under the Data Protection Act.
“We’ve responded to the Data Protection Commissioner, and if she has any concerns or if she has any suggested improvements to our system, of course we’ll be glad to take those on board.
“We have to comply with the law and we believe we are fully compliant with the law, and the Data Protection Commissioner has asked us a series of questions and we’ve answered those.”
It was reported by the Sunday Independent that party officials are being told to use personal information posted online to establish the address of a potential voter.