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Almost everyone was at it! June 10, 2021

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Latest new on the fake polling front. And this may run and run. As IEL notes in comments, Marc McSharry is shocked, shocked I tell you to discover that the party which he is a member of and TD for would have carried out polling in constituencies under, assumed pretences (let’s put it that way!). And is calling on Micheál Martin to resign over this. Now I’m not Martin’s biggest fan, indeed I’m no fan at all, but this seems a stretch.

And furthermore, the framing of the issue was quite interesting on Morning Ireland today – much made of how the ‘smaller’ parties weren’t doing it and how ‘any contention that everyone was involved was simply untrue’.

Unfortunately, as should be well known by now, such blunt assertions of certainty in respect of these matters are usually unwise. Some here have noted some ‘smaller’ parties were indeed it appears engaged in similar approaches and RTÉ has had to note that:

The Green Party has said that in the past some of its activists may have posed as members of a polling company to canvass the opinion of voters.

It said activists may have passed themselves off as pollsters a decade ago – but insisted this is not something that the present day party approves of or would ever engage in.

RTÉ suggests that:

This is an embarrassing turn of events for Irish politics, although the parties involved say that the practice of activists posing as pollsters was discontinued some years ago.

Indeed.

There was a person on from Carr Communication on the same programme who made the point that in some ways SF was using precisely the same methods as FF and FG had before, but that those parties had shifted away from those approaches and SF would have to follow them. The problem being that FF and FG to an extent have lost support as they did so where as SF has gained support. Now clearly this is a different environment, and there are aspects which won’t fly in 2021 which did previously, but I think there is a clear necessity for political involvement to retain the link between people active in communities, at doorsteps and so on. So, where are the limits and where should they be drawn?

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1. Tomboktu - June 10, 2021

RTÉ’s lunch time news was at it again, referring to “fake pollsters”. If they were doing acpoll, then they WERE pollsters.
If Ipsis MRBI or RedC or any of the other for-prifit firms call to your door or phone you at random they will not tell you which party commissioned the questions in the survey on voting intentions. The differences are:limited. The party might make a haymes of sampling or interpreting the data, but that’s their problem, not yours. The party might keep a record of who gave which response. Of they do, that is illegal. But that level of gathering data is not polling.

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2. Liberius - June 10, 2021

Irish man Finn Raben, director general of the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research, said the disclosures that political parties have pretended to be independent pollsters while seeking the voting intentions of the public was “disappointing to say the least”.

“While there are mechanisms to reassure the public about the reputation and duty of care of research companies, there appears to be no mitigating evidence for justifying the political parties’ choice to masquerade and misrepresent their activities,” Mr Raben told The Irish Times…

…Mr Raben said that these kind of practices were “in flagrant breach” of the General Data Protection Regulation, if they took place after the EU data protection law came into effect in 2018.

“Will the parties in question subject themselves to the redress requirements of the GDPR?” he said.

Research firms sign up to a voluntary code governed by industry group, Esomar, that compels them to be transparent about information they collect and the purposes behind its collection.

The code, covered by the Association of Irish Market Research Organisations in this country, obliges firms to ensure researchers protect personal data and behave ethnically.

“It is clear that the reported behaviour of the political parties is in clear breach of these principles,” said Mr Raben.

Not surprised that the polling industry are pissed off, not only are they losing out on work from these kinds of practices but it undermines their ability to do research (worth pointing out most market research as nothing to do with politics) if members of the public end up suspicious of them. Also good point that about GDPR, hopefully that kills off idiotic ideas like the one from this anonymous TD (their always anonymous like we don’t elect them and don’t have a right to know what they say);

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/fg-members-used-business-cards-for-fake-polling-company-1.4589986

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Liberius - June 10, 2021

*they’re always…

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Tomboktu - June 10, 2021

Does he explain just how it is a breach of GDPR?

If a party has 250 responses to a set of questions but did not record which person said what, then there is no breach of GDPR.

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Liberius - June 10, 2021

He doesn’t though I suspect he’s assuming that at least some identifiable has been recorded, looking at the list of the citizen’s information page the location data would be interesting, to what extent did they record where the responses came from, just the constituency or estate or house. Would be interesting to find out how anonymous the data really is if it was looked at carefully enough.

Personal data is information that relates to, or can identify you, either by itself or together with other available information. Personal data can include:

Your name
Your address
Your contact details,
Identification numbers (for example your PPS number)
Your IP address (this is your internet address)
CCTV footage
Access cards
Audio-visual or audio recordings of you
Location data

Under data protection law, if an organisation or company is holding or using your personal data, you are known as a data subject.

https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/government_in_ireland/data_protection/overview_of_general_data_protection_regulation.html#

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3. Tomboktu - June 11, 2021

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WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2021

It kind of feels like it. Amused to see FG kitted their pollsters out with business cards

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pettyburgess - June 11, 2021

I’m mostly interested in the names.

SF had the IMRA (I’M RA seriously?)
FG had the Political Research Association of Ireland
FF had Pinpoint Polling

I’m not sure if FF and FG used multiple names or if they were consistent. What was the Green’s cover name I wonder?

The guild interest whining from polling companies is quite amusing. It’s not as if they disclose to people being polled that they are working for a particular party either.

I’m now curious about whether the big parties piously saying that they’ve abandoned this practice are hiring MRBI or if they’ve simply incorporated their own polling companies. Apparently that would make everything legitimate by the logic of some of the complaints…

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WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2021

+1 And to add to the interest whining I think only the Phoenix mentioned at the time that the Independent had a faux polling outfit of its own. Curious isn’t it that both the polling companies and the other news media didn’t see fit to poke at that.

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Liberius - June 11, 2021

The guild interest whining from polling companies is quite amusing. It’s not as if they disclose to people being polled that they are working for a particular party either.

They do disclose who they themselves are though and these are organisations that can be looked up and contacted in contrast to IMRA, PRAI etcetera who don’t exist and can’t be contacted ever for any purposes, particularly to check their data retention. I’m actually fascinated by how blasé people are about the potential data that has been recorded by parties, I certainly don’t think they can be trusted to be honest about what they’ve recorded.

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pettyburgess - June 11, 2021

Political parties have been keeping detailed canvass records with much more useful information on them than anything they would get through a poll for decades and decades. Pretty much everybody polled is on Facebook and has a smart phone. Of all the things to get data paranoid about this is extremely trivial. I couldn’t give two shites about this story to be frank except for the entertainment value.

I see by the way that a FG special adviser has a polling firm these days

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EWI - June 11, 2021

I see by the way that a FG special adviser has a polling firm these days

Frank Luntz, the one-time well-known GOP elections guru, described himself and his operation as ‘pollsters’ (and even rocked up on these shores to work for Bertie Ahern’s FF in the 2000s).

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WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2021

At this point it is all moot, anyhow, as RTÉ notes the practice is now discontinued. Pretty much all parties have sought to cull information on voters as you say PB. It’s hardly a surprise that parties aren’t particularly trustworthy.But no one is in our society with information is trustworthy really hence regulation. I don’t think this really tells us much about individual parties or even parties as a whole except that it is necessary to have some controls on data. But a good canvasser is going to know all this and more. Again, I’d be concern that this is used to dampen activism, campaigns, engagement.

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Liberius - June 11, 2021

It may be the thin end of the wedge as far as data collection goes but the same flippancy towards things like those canvass records was seen when the Abú stuff came up (along with the lemming-like behaviour of left parties acting like human shields for SF). Reality is it’s not for political parties and their members to decide how trivial the data is, that is for those who are having their data recorded to decide. Voluntarily giving up data to known entities is different than having it collected involuntarily or by deception, people have a choice about using Facebook etcetera (I don’t) and if they do they have to agree to the data policies and even then GDPR gives them rights over the use and retention of that data.

For me the real issue here is the sense that political parties think they are different and are hoovering up data for some sort of noble cause and that nullifies any issues that might be created by that data. Bluntly a lot of the political sphere, including the parties of the left, need to realise they aren’t special and are not and never will be more virtuous holders of data than the likes of Facebook.

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WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2021

In a sense you’re right, there’s definitely an attitude amongst political parties that they are different – and those on the left and further left are often more prey to that and illusions of their own virtuous nature than those with other ideological positions (and SF is far from alone in that attitude indeed in some ways it’s just catching up with some others which may have been the problem). But they’re also voluntary organisations that are involved in political activity and not as highly regulated as – say – a company, because in some ways the stakes are counterintuitively relatively low. Sure, a canvasser or whoever can cull information but using it is a different matter. I can think of a dystopian situation where a party might get into power and reward and punish those whose allegiance was clear but it seems a stretch and already there are frameworks to mitigate or prevent this as it stands. Short of that given the limited interactions and numbers involved it’s not that I’m glib or indifferent to potential dangers but that there seems to be grey areas in respect of political activity and campaigns where for example we may want to arrive at a door ask for support, engage people, get them out to march or protest or be on a picket line or whatever. In those circumstances it seems very difficult that data about their preferences wouldn’t come to the fore. In other words by default knowledge will be there as to who is supportive and who is not. And that is acted upon, obviously as is local knowledge of streets, etc. Sure, I’m different, and perhaps you are too, in having had posters in my windows until the 2010s. And yes that’s on me to do that. But simple political activity will generate knowledge. It’s unavoidable. And will generate responses.

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pettyburgess - June 11, 2021

I think that’s pretty much the exact wrong way around Liberius. Tech companies use nominally voluntary interactions to disguise the largest scale and most dangerous data gathering and analysis in history. Some TD in Roscommon or Laois with a cardboard folder with a load of crumpled poll return sheets from 2014 in it shoved in an office cupboard is quite a bit less threatening.

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Liberius - June 11, 2021

Short of that given the limited interactions and numbers involved it’s not that I’m glib or indifferent to potential dangers but that there seems to be grey areas in respect of political activity and campaigns where for example we may want to arrive at a door ask for support, engage people, get them out to march or protest or be on a picket line or whatever. In those circumstances it seems very difficult that data about their preferences wouldn’t come to the fore.

I think we’ve been here before in relation to the Abú, there is a vast difference between informal knowledge held in people’s minds and formal information recorded in a database, the first is fine and impossible to control, the second comes with responsibilities about consent and security and is absolutely not fine if that data has been obtained without consent.

I think that’s pretty much the exact wrong way around Liberius. Tech companies use nominally voluntary interactions to disguise the largest scale and most dangerous data gathering and analysis in history.

Never said that system was perfect and fully support Schrems’ attempts to get tech companies (and others) to move to more straightforward reject or accept interactions rather than hiding reject options.

Some TD in Roscommon or Laois with a cardboard folder with a load of crumpled poll return sheets from 2014 in it shoved in an office cupboard is quite a bit less threatening.

The degree of threat is irrelevant, it’s the principle of data protection that is important, that applies as much to politicians and parties as much as it does companies irrespective of how much special pleading the later may make.

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Liberius - June 11, 2021

*former…

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WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2021

Again, take the point, but informal knowledge was never just held in minds, there were almost always some notes taken. That’s kind of the point. The question is how much knowledge is too much knowledge and how that impacts on genuine and reasonable political activity on the part of parties/groups and within communities with citizens. But my concerns are how all this has a chilling effect. The guy from Carr Communications on RTÉ was absolutely explicit that FF and FG had now long since moved away from community activity and ‘reformed’ and that SF would have to follow suit despite trying to blend the two forms of activity (community activism and utilisation of social media etc). I think that’s problematic because the move moves us away from actual citizens.

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Liberius - June 11, 2021

I think a problem here is definition, to my mind informal information becomes formal the moment it is written down or inputted into a digital database, I don’t see there being a grey area there, so to me any information held is too much information unless consent has been explicitly given for it.

I also am sceptical about the impact this has on community activism, the only implication surely is that if you are intending to retain information then you’ve got to comply with GDPR and get that consent, that might be slightly more burdensome than not but it isn’t insurmountable. And if you don’t intend to keep such information then there isn’t a problem there anyway. How that has a chilling effect is illusive to me; what exactly would be prevented by needing consent for retaining information?

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WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2021

As I’ve said before on one level all this is moot, no-one is doing this today, but I do think that any but the lightest barriers to political activity are negative, that in some respects they’re design to dampen down such activity, it’s far from beyond the bounds of possibility that taking names and contact details etc could be hedged in such a way as to be burdensome on those doing so and again suppressive of activity. I think this is one of these areas where I see where you’re coming from but the voluntary nature of politics is such that I’m personally not convinced that the hazard from such detail taking is either so great that it constitutes a clear and present danger or that it is sufficiently justified to require excessive policing. Or to put it a different way we’ll have to differ!

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4. roddy - June 11, 2021

Long before the internet ,canvas sheets were kept that recorded households as “staunch” ,”possible” and “lackey”.(Those actual terms were not used) but they were very useful when getting your core vote out and persuading waverers..Naturally the “lackeys” were ignored and thus time was’nt wasted!

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WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2021

Mentioned it before, back in the early 80s when canvassing for the WP as a wet behind the ears canvasser there was great merriment in sending me to the doors of very clearly not ‘possible’ but entirely staunch Provos and seeing the fireworks that erupted! In fairness it was sort of a hazing thing on the first one or two canvasses presumably in part to see if I was up to the job. I was. Just about. But as you say in canvassing there’s a practical reason to not go to the doors of those who are hostile or worse. It makes no sense to waste the time and energy when you’ve got people out on the road.

BTW, the first time I went canvassing with Tony Gregory and I hadn’t been canvasing in a good eight or so years prior to that I remember I was surprised to find every door I went to for the first few roads he’d make a point of being at the door of the next house and well within earshot. All became clear when at the end of the evening he said to me ‘Jesus, what happened to the great Workers Party canvassing techniques, now listen you’re going to have to do this and this and this…’

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banjoagbeanjoe - June 11, 2021

Now I think of it, I received zero training or direction from the WP before I canvassed for them. Some in the media around that time used to describe the WP as super efficient and serious about their political activity. Military organisation was hinted at. But … not the branch I joined! No training or direction whatsoever … just knock on the door and look for the vote and no-one checked on what I said or anything.
This could have been to do with the fact that my branch hated our rich solicitor candidate and didn’t want him elected. But as I remember it, I’d say it would have been the same ‘re canvas training no matter who we were putting up!

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EWI - June 11, 2021

Mentioned it before, back in the early 80s when canvassing for the WP as a wet behind the ears canvasser there was great merriment in sending me to the doors of very clearly not ‘possible’ but entirely staunch Provos and seeing the fireworks that erupted!

As a teenager once canvassed a notorious working-class estate (SF and Worker’s Party stronghold) with Donie Cassidy and others. ‘Fun’.

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WorldbyStorm - June 11, 2021

This is it banjo… there was little or no training wasn’t there? And yet we collectively had a fearsome reputation as the best canvassers and activists in communities during the 1980s (so much so the LP thought all those extra DL people were going to make a difference). I think to be frank this was a bit like SF later, that it came not so much from the quality as the quantity and sheer effort put in, which the larger parties either had abandoned or did a bit here a bit there. Also and I think you hit another point, even though details were taken there was no great plan behind it, because what can you do with those sort of details. Part of politics is convincing those who are ambivalent more than those who want to vote for you, but you have to cover both. The one’s who aren’t going to vote for you as roddy says you avoid completely, not worth the effort.

I always think about the candidate and whenever the name hits the news I think ‘was it us who put x there’. Ah well. We did good otherwise.

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Colm B - June 12, 2021

My WP experience too. First ever canvass was in a Dublin Central by-election. Dark winter evening canvassing in flats complex. No training, but I had what I think gave us that reputation, not training or efficiency but belief, determination, enthusiasm.

Please don’t mention His Honour again, puts me off my late breakfast🤢

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WorldbyStorm - June 12, 2021

You’re not the only one. That’s it enthusiasm, and fear!

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5. Tomboktu - June 13, 2021

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WorldbyStorm - June 13, 2021

I imagine next to no party on the island didn’t do this or something like it if they had enough volunteers. I imagine too tho no party will do so again!

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