A COMPANY which helped Labour target new mothers in the general election has been fined £140,000 for illegally collecting and selling personal data on more than 1m people.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) imposed the penalty on the parenting advice site Emma’s Diary, also known as Lifecycle Marketing (Mother and Baby) Ltd.

The ICO said the Buckingham-based firm, which has apologised after previously denying wrongdoing, sold information to Experian Marketing Services specifically for use by the Labour Party.

Experian then created a database which the party used to profile the new mothers in the run-up to the 2017 election, allowing the party to send direct mail to families in marginal seats about its intention to protect Sure Start Children’s Centres.

An ICO investigation found the Emma’s Diary privacy policy did not disclose that people’s personal information would be used for political marketing or by political parties.

This is a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

There is no suggestion the Labour Party was aware that the data had been improperly sourced.

The ICO announced its intention to fine Emma’s Diary when it published an interim report on data analytics for political purposes last month.

It said it had levied the fine after considering representations from the firm.

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham 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.

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

The ICO has put the UK’s 11 main political parties on notice that their data-sharing practices will be audited later this year.

The watchdog also has outstanding enquiries with several data brokers, including Experian.

Ms Denham added: “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.”

Emma's Diary is promoted by the Royal College of General Practitioners among others, and its information packs are distributed by many GPs and midwives.

Experian Marketing Services recently said that it was aware of the ICO's concerns and would "remain vigilant when it comes to data security and integrity".

In a statement, Lifecycle Marketing apologised.

"We had never previously provided data to a political party and we will never do so again," the firm said.

"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 [data protection act] has not been in line with the ICO's."