A company targeted at new mothers is facing a fine for selling data to Labour for its general election campaign

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  • The UK’s data watchdog plans to fine Emma’s Diary, which offers advice to expectant mothers, £140,000 for selling people’s personal information to the Labour Party.
  • The data was used in Labour’s general election campaign in 2017, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office, but sharing that information was illegal.
  • Lifecycle Marketing, the company behind Emma’s Diary, has disputed some of the claims in a statement to Business Insider.

Emma’s Diary, a company that offers advice to women and new parents, is facing a fine from the UK’s data watchdog for selling people’s personal information to the Labour party.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it planned to fine Emma’s Diary £140,000 for selling information about its users illegally to data broker Experian for Labour to use during its general election campaign.

Lifecycle, the company which owns Emma’s Diary, has disputed the findings. It has denied additional accusations from the ICO that it handed over data about new mothers and mothers in maternity wards.

Emma’s Diary ‘handed over more than 1m records’ to Labour

Emma’s Diary bills itself as “one of the UK’s leading baby clubs for mums-to-be, providing expert advice on every aspect of pregnancy and childcare.” Its website states that Emma’s Diary has a circulation of 870,000 a year.

Mums and parents-to-be who sign up with the site receive money-off vouchers for shops like Argos, and gift packs.

According to the ICO, Emma’s Diary handed over more than 1 million records to Experian under a data supply agreement listing the Labour Party as Experian’s client.

The records included:

  • The name of the parent, household address
  • The presence of children up to 5 years old
  • The dates of birth of both mother and child.

The information was then supplied to Labour for targeted marketing, and to send political ads to people with young children for 106 parliamentary seats, the ICO said.

Deputy information commissioner Steve Wood told the Guardian on Tuesday that the ICO had, “really significant concerns about how Emma’s Diary was gathering the data, particularly involving mothers who were in hospital.”

The ICO said Lifecycle hadn’t made it clear enough that users’ information would be sold on for political purposes.

A Labour spokeswoman said it would review its approach to buying information:

“We welcome the ICO’s report. The Labour Party holds data from a variety of sources, like all UK political parties. We have neither bought nor used Emma’s Diary data since the 2017 general election and we will be reviewing our approach to acquiring data from third parties in light of the ICO’s report. The Party has worked hard to bring into place a whole raft of new approaches to how we manage and process the data we hold to ensure compliance with GDPR and the new legal framework.”

Lifecycle claims that Experian deleted the data from the Labour Party database after 8 June 2017.

A Lifecycle spokesman told Business Insider:

“We are deeply disappointed by the ICO’s decision to publish a report including details of enforcement action intended to be taken against Lifecycle Marketing.

“It is irregular for the ICO to publish details of intended enforcement action in this way before the process is complete.

“We were not given an opportunity to respond to the detail of the ICO’s intended enforcement action prior to the report being published. As a result, details of the ICO’s findings, together with statements attributed to the ICO being reported by the press, contain significant factual inaccuracies which we trust will be corrected.

“This includes the untrue claim that we sold data from expectant mothers to the Labour Party. Furthermore, Lifecycle has never been, nor ever will be, involved in collecting data from mothers in maternity wards as the ICO is reported to have asserted. This allegation is false, defamatory and causes serious harm to Lifecycle’s reputation.

“We look forward to working with the ICO on its ongoing investigation and will be submitting our written representations to challenge the ICO’s findings in accordance with the usual process.”

This story has been updated with Lifecycle’s latest statement.

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