ICO warns politicians against misusing data in 2019 election

Parties are reminded to follow the law in light of threats of data abuse and voter targeting

Political parties must be clear about how they have obtained, and how they use, personal data for campaigning purposes, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has warned.

Ahead of the next general election, the ICO has urged politicians to ensure they can demonstrate they have complied with the law, as well as any third-party platforms or data analytics providers they use.

The UK's data regulator has written to all prominent political parties, from Labour and the Conservatives to the Independent Group for Change and UKIP, in light of findings that data was abused for political campaigning purposes.

Vote Leave, for instance, was fined 40,000 for sending unlawful and unsolicited text messages prior to the EU referendum in 2016. Aaron Banks' insurance firm and Leave.EU, similarly, was issued with a 120,000 fine following a probe into these organisations' marketing practices.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

"Following the announcement of a General Election on 12 December, I am writing to remind you of the continuing need to comply with data protection and electronic marketing laws," Elizabeth Denham has said in an open letter.

"People's awareness of their data protection rights has never been greater, and their expectations that those rights are respected never higher. Compliance with these laws is vital to the trust and confidence in the democratic system."

Denham aimed to emphasise several key requirements, especially a reminder that data protection laws, such as the Data Protection Act 2018, and electronic marketing rules, apply both before and during the election period.

Beyond ensuring there are records of compliance, political parties must have appropriate records of consent from individuals in order to send political messages through various channels such as text or email.

Related Resource

Trends in modern data protection

A comprehensive view of the data protection landscape

Download now

Parties must also identify the lawful bases for processing special category data, such as ethnicity or political opinions, if applicable.

"People expect their personal information to be used in line with law, and where that doesn't happen in digital campaigning, there's a danger that public trust and confidence in the broader democracy process is damaged," Denham continued.

Advertisement - Article continues below

"It's crucial that candidates and campaigners get this right, and the ICO will be monitoring the situation throughout."

The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) previously warned about the 'wild west' of online political campaigning, arguing that tech companies cannot be trusted to deal with such issues alone.

Its findings echoed with the ICO's suggestions that political parties must work with the government to establish a legally-binding framework for digital campaigning, in the rise of such threats as "foreign interference and dodgy dealings".

Featured Resources

What you need to know about migrating to SAP S/4HANA

Factors to assess how and when to begin migration

Download now

Your enterprise cloud solutions guide

Infrastructure designed to meet your company's IT needs for next-generation cloud applications

Download now

Testing for compliance just became easier

How you can use technology to ensure compliance in your organisation

Download now

Best practices for implementing security awareness training

How to develop a security awareness programme that will actually change behaviour

Download now


Business strategy

What is big data analytics?

17 Sep 2019

Most Popular

data governance

Brexit security talks under threat after UK accused of illegally copying Schengen data

10 Jan 2020
Microsoft Windows

What to do if you're still running Windows 7

14 Jan 2020

Dell XPS 13 (New 9300) hands-on review: Chasing perfection

14 Jan 2020
operating systems

17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

13 Jan 2020