How politicians spy on us
POLITICAL parties are not just spying on voters, they are billing it to the taxpayer.
An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph reveals federal Labor and Coalition parliamentarians have made hundreds of seemingly innocuous “software reimbursement” claims since the last election, with the money funnelled into centralised databases.
These systems can crossmatch private electoral roll details such as address and age — available to parties due to a controversial law exemption — with Facebook profiles, census information, door-to-door surveys and much more.
“Not only is this happening, you are paying for it,” a former Labor frontbencher said, describing it as “spying” designed to identify “persuadables” — those whose vote can be turned.
At the 2016 federal election, the ALP’s system identified two million such people who were then “micro-targeted”.
The campaign was run by now US-based digital specialist Erinn Swan, daughter of former federal treasurer and current Labor MP Wayne Swan. She declined to comment.
Analysis of more than 1300 parliamentarians’ claims in the two years to June 2018 reveals Labor MPs and senators sought $356,000 for software, typically at $2000 to $3000 per year. At this rate, the Opposition will claim more than $530,000 this term. Coalition parliamentarians submitted software expenses of $322,000, which would add up to more than $483,000 over the term.
The software payments are sent directly to “nominated providers”. Labor’s is called Campaign Central, run by the national secretariat, which wouldn’t comment.
Campaign Central didn’t start as a tool of “persuasion”, a former top party official said, but that’s what it is becoming.
Coalition claim proceeds go to a company named Parakeelia, whose directors include party boss and former NSW premier Nick Greiner.
Centre Alliance federal MP Rebekha Sharkie has called for an inquiry into major parties’ data-mining.
Australian Privacy Foundation chairman David Vaile said parties were “addicted” to collecting lucrative data.
University of Sydney professor of political sociology Ariadne Vromen said the parties “need to think about whether they are respecting the digital privacy of the people they are targeting”.