Twitter mob strikes again: How Mr. Raab, MP, gave himself a PR disaster

MP for Esher, Dominic Raab, doesn’t “get” the internet. After having public domain, parliamentary details made public on campaigning website 38 degrees he has said emails are a right nuisance and he doesn’t want any more.

He penned a letter to campaigning website 38 Degrees saying that if it did not remove his email address from the “contact your MP system” the site would get reported to the Information Commissioner.

It’s all backfired rather spectacularly. It went viral on Twitter and, more importantly, the Information Commissioner got back in touch with 38 Degrees and said it is doing absolutely nothing wrong. The Information Commissioner reassured 38 Degrees that because Raab is an MP, his email is in the public domain and he has no right to report anyone.

So here are his email addresses ten times courtesy of Christina Louise Martin’s bog:

raabd@parliament.uk & dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk 

raabd@parliament.uk & dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk

raabd@parliament.uk & dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk 

raabd@parliament.uk & dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk

raabd@parliament.uk & dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk 

raabd@parliament.uk & dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk

raabd@parliament.uk & dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk 

raabd@parliament.uk & dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk

raabd@parliament.uk & dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk 

raabd@parliament.uk & dominic.raab.mp@parliament.uk

While we’re not suggesting anyone send Mr Raab an email, we are exercising our right to display information that lies within the public domain. And the internet’s a very, very public domain: by getting his pants in a twist, Raab is putting himself forward for a PR disaster. If the CIA can’t censor Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, the MP for Esher and Walton probably can’t censor his own email address.

In fact, thanks to the forest fire nature of Twitter and the rest of it – simply take a look at the Twitter feed to the right on the 38 Degrees bog post here  to see how quickly it’s being spread about – he’s well and truly landed himself in some sort of unpleasant creek, and we suspect he doesn’t have a paddle.

*EyeSee: Dominic Raab has authored a book called “The Assault on Liberty”, in which he rattles on about New Labour’s attempts to side-step democracy and, according to Wikipedia, “attacks Britain’s proud tradition of freedom”.

The full reply from the Information Commissioner can be read below:

Dear Mr Chatterton
Thank you for your email dated 15 July 2010 regarding the use of MPs House of Commons email addresses by 38 Degrees.

I can confirm in writing that, as discussed on the telephone last week, MPs House of Commons email addresses are publicly available. This means that, although they will be considered personal data under the terms of Section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998 (the DPA), the individuals who the data relates to will have a lower expectation of privacy due to the fact that this information is already within the public domain.

You have indicated that your website allows individuals to email MPs at their House of Commons email addresses about specific subjects that their constituents have issues concerning. Use of MPs email addresses in this way is likely to be within their reasonable expectation and is unlikely to be significantly different from the purpose for which they expect their House of Commons email address to be used. It is unlikely, therefore, that the use of MPs personal information in this way will constitute a breach of the DPA.

With regard to an MP requesting you to cease processing their personal information, individuals do not have the right to request deletion of personal information under all circumstances. Under Section 10 of the Act, individuals have the right to request that an organisation ceases processing their personal information where it is causing them damage or distress. This is, however, unlikely to apply in this case because, as previously stated, MPs should have a legitimate expectation that their constituents will contact them via their House of Commons email addresses in relation to issues they have concerns over. Individuals also have the right under Section 11 of the Act to request that organisations cease processing their personal information for marketing purposes. However, this is again unlikely to apply in this case due to the fact that 38 Degrees is not using the email addresses for marketing purposes.

I hope the above information is of assistance to you in clarifying the legal situation surrounding this issue and consolidates the information I supplied to you over the telephone.