A TARGETED email campaign by the Labour Party ahead of last year’s snap General Election used data illegally sold by a pregnancy and baby site.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said that the personal information of more than one million people was collected and sold on for use by the party.

The parenting service involved – Emma’s Diary – has now been smacked with a six-figure fine.

Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner, said: “The relationship between data brokers, political parties and campaigns is complex. Even though this company was not directly involved in political campaigning, the democratic process must be transparent.”

The data was used to profile and target new mums ahead of the 2017 snap general election.

Emma’s Diary, which also distributes packs of sample mum-and-baby products for big-name brands, collected names, contact details and other information about users and their children.

It has now been fined £140,000 by the ICO under its official title of Lifecycle Marketing (Mother and Baby) Ltd. The watchdog said the data had been sold on to Experian Marketing Service, an arm of the credit reference firm.

The transaction took place on May 5, around three weeks after Theresa May fired the starting gun for the UK-wide vote, and five weeks before ballot boxes opened.

All details were specifically for use by the Labour Party, which used it to profile new mums and send targeted mail to those in marginal seats about a child-friendly pledge.

But none of those who had provided details to Emma’s Diary knew the material would be used for political marketing or by political parties.

That was kept out of the privacy policy in a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Denham said: “All organisations involved in political campaigning must use personal information in ways that are transparent, lawful and understood by the UK public.”

The case formed part of the ICO’s “comprehensive investigation” into data analytics for political uses. The body announced its intention to fine Emma’s Diary on publishing the interim investigation report in July, with the fine set today.

Meanwhile, the ICO has put the biggest 11 political parties “on notice” to have their data-sharing practices audited later this year, and has outstanding enquiries with Experian and other data brokers.

Denham said: “The ICO is committed to monitoring data brokers, political parties and online platforms and using new audit and enforcement powers so that the public can have confidence that parties and political campaign groups are complying with the law.”

The Labour Party has said it would review its approach to acquiring data from third parties.

A spokesperson stated: “We have neither bought nor used Emma’s Diary data since the 2017 general election.”

Lifecycle Marketing, which is based in Buckinghamshire, has said Emma’s Diary will no longer provide data to political parties.

The company stated: “We have always sought to fully comply with our data protection obligations, which we take extremely seriously, we are sorry that on this isolated occasion our interpretation of the DPA has not been in line with the ICO’s.

“We are fully compliant with the new GDPR and give our parents complete control over the communications they receive.”

According to the ICO, the firm knew the information that was sold would be used in a postal campaign promoting family-friendly policies in more than 100 constituencies.

The push related to the party’s promise to protect Sure Start children’s centres, which offer help and advice on child and family health, parenting, money and employment.

The sites – some of which also provide childcare – were a New Labour scheme and at the height of the scheme in August 2009 there were more than 3630 centres across the UK, with more than half of these located within the 30% most disadvantaged areas.

According to an Oxford University report published earlier this year, as many as 1000 have now closed.

The ICO enquiry follows the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which revealed how the UK firm harvested the personal details of 87 million Facebook account holders for use in political campaigning.

It has been suggested that the UK-based operator’s actions helped clinch the US presidency for Donald Trump in 2016.

Meanwhile, in a survey of British organisations conducted by software firm CA Technologies earlier this year, around half said they sell consumer information to third parties.