Media mogul Murdoch's 'Sky dataset' swallow poses 'grave threat'

UK peers want ICO to ensure info cannot be misused

The proposed £11.7bn takeover of Sky by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox is a "grave threat" to the democratic process, members of the UK's House of Lords have claimed.

In a letter to The Observer newspaper, six peers have said that Fox – which currently owns 39 per cent of Sky – could gain too much access to one of the "largest and sophisticated datasets in the country".

The media giant has the TV viewing, internet and phone records of 13 million households, which the peers argue could be misused for political ends.

The letter says that if that information should "fall into the hands of an owner with an appetite for political leverage, the temptations and opportunities for misuse become very great indeed".

Filmmaker and Labour peer David Puttnam is leading the charge, and told The Observer that the deal would give "unregulated access" to the dataset.

"With that information, people can be individually targeted with advertisements personalised to them. And we have this unbelievable situation where we have no regulation of political advertisements, so a party can tell any lie they want," Puttnam is quoted as saying.

He added: "I do see this as a very grave threat to our democratic process."

The peers say that the Information Commissioner's Office should confirm that data cannot be misused before any decision is made on the deal – which has also been referred to the Competition and Markets Authority regulator.

The letter taps into growing concerns about the influence of fake news and political bots in election campaigns, as well as the way information on voters is used by political parties and their supporters.

Earlier this year, the ICO launched a probe into the way political parties use personal information to run targeted campaigns, which is due to report by the end of the year. ®


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