Albania: Alarm over indications of personal data breach, election campaign violations

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The Albanian authorities should, without any further delay, determine whether the ruling party obtained Tirana voters’ personal data from government registries, Transparency International said today. The Special Prosecution Against Corruption and Organised Crime (SPAK) must also urgently investigate whether the incumbent party abused state resources for securing a win during Sunday’s parliamentary election. 

On 11 April, an Albanian media portal published a database containing personal data and private information of 910,000 individuals, allegedly maintained by the country’s ruling Socialist Party. It was revealed – and since then confirmed – that ‘patrons’ were assigned to voters who tracked their political preferences. Additional comments, recorded by the patrons, reportedly detail their interactions with citizens, with some instances amounting to possible voter intimidation. 

Daniel Eriksson, Chief Executive Officer of Transparency International Secretariat, said: “In recent years, we have seen the alarming trend of harnessing personal data to influence election outcomes. If proven, the allegations that Albania’s ruling party maintained an illegally obtained database with personal and private information on 910,000 citizens would constitute not only a data breach, but also a breach of public trust. An impartial inquiry would have been able to very quickly determine whether the party obtained citizens’ personal data from government sources.” 

The leaked database reportedly contains names of 9,000 ‘patrons’, many of whom journalists have identified as public sector employees, police officers and even army personnel.  

Prime Minister Edi Rama confirmed that the ‘patron’ system is in place but claimed that citizens’ data was collected through door-to-door meetings. According to Albania’s Ombudsperson, the collection and processing of sensitive information seen in the database is unlawful, in the first place. 

“It is incomprehensible that government officials have been downplaying the graveness of these revelations,” added Eriksson. “The failure to adequately investigate and sanction wrongdoing will cast the shadow over the fairness of the upcoming election. We call on the international observers to take note of these issues as part of their assessments.” 

Transparency International