Prime Minister Theresa May’s Twitter special adviser is the subject of a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner for the misuse of personal data, as WALTER CRONXITE reports
New year, same old Croydon Tories.
A mass emailing sent in the past week on behalf of Mario Creatura, the Coulsdon councillor who works at No10 as Theresa Mayhem’s official Twitterer, has already attracted a raft of complaints, with at least one resident planning on contacting the Information Commissioner claiming that their personal data has been abused by Croydon Conservatives.
Maximum penalties for breaches of the Data Protection Act and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, can range from £500,000 to £17million.
The spam email, which has “Our community needs you” in the header field, has been received by dozens of residents in the Croydon Central parliamentary constituency who are neither members of the Conservative Party, nor, they claim, have they ever agreed to be added to the Tory Party mailing list.
Their complaints are similar to those lodged against Gavin Barwell when he was MP for the constituency, and when Creatura was working as his parliamentary assistant in charge of his digital communications.
Since losing his seat at the 2017 General Election, Barwell has worked in Downing Street as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, where he hired Creatura to look after No10’s Twitter account and other online messaging.
Last month, Creatura was selected by Croydon Conservatives as their prospective parliamentary candidate for Barwell’s old constituency of Croydon Central. Or, as the somewhat presumptious Creatura email despatched this week describes him, “prospective Conservative MP for Croydon Central”.
The Creatura email is the latest sign that the Tories – in No10 and in Croydon – are gearing up for a possible snap General Election, as the Barwell-led Brexit negotiations face further challenges and barriers in the coming weeks.
The email is a blatant data-scraping exercise, seeking the updated personal email data of tens of thousands of potential voters in the constituency, under the guise of asking for their opinions on what is needed to improve Croydon (Creatura fails to offer any ideas of his own in the email).
“I understand the issues that concern you,” Creatura is quoted as saying in the email. “We shop in the same shops and drive on the same roads.” True fellow-feeling indeed from the man who in the past has been photographed unable to stifle his giggles when stepping over the homeless in a Croydon underpass.
Creatura receives a special responsibility allowance of more than £18,000 per year as a Croydon councillor, on top of his Downing Street SPAD salary of up to £88,000. He was recently able to sell-off his bachelor pad in Exchange Square in the town centre, where flats can sell for more than £300,000, to buy a house in the pricy Park Hill estate with his teacher fiancée Amy Pollard. Fellow feeling indeed.
Croydon Central residents who have received Creatura’s unsolicited email say they are going to lodge a formal complaint because they suspect that the Tories have broken data protection law.
One resident contacted Inside Croydon to say, “So here we have the digital advisor to Theresa May ignoring the Data Protection Act 2018 and carrying on spamming.”
Another said, “The blurb at the bottom says that I’ve subscribed to receive updates from Conservative ‘representatives’, which might well be the case as I used to receive Barwell’s emails when he was MP.
“Mario Creatura, however, is not my representative and never has been. I am taking this up with the Information Commissioner.”
The Information Commissioner is increasingly concerned about the dark arts of political parties and their campaigning.
“An investigation by the ICO has found that political parties and campaign groups, from all sides, have been targeting potential voters using data analytics methods,” the ICO says on its website.
“These techniques, known collectively as micro-targeting, help the parties and groups deliver very specific messages directly to small groups with shared interests or opinions or directly to individuals.”
It seems highly likely that this is among the techniques being used at the highest levels of government.
The ICO says that use of personal data in this way, targeting people through digital advertising without the individual’s knowledge or consent, “goes against one of the key principles of data protection law, which requires organisations to process personal data fairly, ensuring that people know what is happening with their data”.
The email, and Creatura’s personal Twitter account, also demonstrate what had long been suspected: his position as a councillor for what is now Coulsdon Town ward was only merely a convenient stepping stone in his relentless personal political ambition to become an MP.
Creatura was conveniently selected for a safe Tory council ward where he was first elected in 2014. But it was not long before he demonstrated that he felt that the duties of a mere ward councillor, tending to the concerns of residents, were beneath him, as regular surgeries in the ward were abandoned, replaced by high street campaigning sessions, where the aim was the re-election of Tory councillors rather more than solving local issues.
Since his selection as a prospective parliamentary candidate, Creatura has been busy setting up his Croydon Central campaign website and redesigning the banner image on his Twitter account, which is now plastered with images from the town centre, and with nothing to indicate that he has any association with his Coulsdon ward. Fellow feeling indeed.
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