ICO investigating use of data in political campaigns

The investigation will determine if parties breached data protection laws

Brexit

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has said it will begin a formal investigation to assess whether political groups were using analytics in a way that breached data protection laws.

The announcement follows an initial assessment in March, which looked at the use of analytics to shape political campaigning and contact people based on individual data. It appears that the ICO has gathered enough evidence of data protection violations to merit a full-blown investigation.

"Given the big data revolution, it is understandable that political campaigns are exploring the potential of advanced data analysis tools to help win votes," wrote information commissioner Elizabeth Denham, in a blog post.

"The public have the right to expect that this takes place in accordance with the law as it relates to data protection and electronic marketing," she added.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Political parties are able to contact members of the public to promote political agendas, however to do so falls under the category of 'direct marketing', which is subject to data protection laws. The ICO has responded to complaints in the past where individuals have received direct contact from political parties without their consent.

A recently published report by the Guardian revealed how political parties were targeting messages at voters through their Facebook pages, and tailoring the content based on individual data.

The use of analytics came under the spotlight in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, when it emerged that US-based Cambridge Analytica, which claims to be the"global leader in data-driven campaigning", was involved with the Vote Leave campaign. However this association was never declared to the election watchdog.

The ICO also said that although the use of data analytics by political parties is becoming more frequent, the level of awareness among the public about how their data is collected and shared remains low. "Having considered the evidence we have already gathered I have decided to open a formal investigation into the use of data analytics for political reasons," said Denham.

The investigation will run alongside current investigations into practices deployed during the EU referendum campaign, but could expand beyond that into similar political movements. This investigation will remain a "high priority" for the ICO, according to Denham.

"I am conscious that opening this formal investigation coincides with ongoing campaigning ahead of the General Election," said Denham. "The timing of my decision is unrelated to the current campaign, but I would nonetheless remind all relevant organisations of the need to comply with the law."

Featured Resources

The IT Pro guide to Windows 10 migration

Everything you need to know for a successful transition

Download now

Managing security risk and compliance in a challenging landscape

How key technology partners grow with your organisation

Download now

Software-defined storage for dummies

Control storage costs, eliminate storage bottlenecks and solve storage management challenges

Download now

6 best practices for escaping ransomware

A complete guide to tackling ransomware attacks

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/information-commissioner/31751/what-is-the-information-commissioner-s-office-ico
Information Commissioner

What is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)?

5 Sep 2019
Visit/data-protection/33450/bounty-fined-by-ico-for-unlawfully-sharing-member-data
data protection

Bounty fined by ICO for unlawfully sharing member data

15 Apr 2019
Visit/backup/33385/arcserve-udp-9240dr-review-beef-up-your-backups
backup

Arcserve UDP 9240DR review: Beef up your backups

4 Apr 2019

Most Popular

Visit/security/identity-and-access-management-iam/354289/44-million-microsoft-customers-found-using
identity and access management (IAM)

44 million Microsoft customers found using compromised passwords

6 Dec 2019
Visit/cloud/microsoft-azure/354230/microsoft-not-amazon-is-going-to-win-the-cloud-wars
Microsoft Azure

Microsoft, not Amazon, is going to win the cloud wars

30 Nov 2019
Visit/operating-systems/microsoft-windows/354297/this-exploit-could-give-users-free-windows-7-updates
Microsoft Windows

This exploit could give users free Windows 7 updates beyond 2020

9 Dec 2019
Visit/hardware/354237/five-signs-that-its-time-to-retire-it-kit
Sponsored

Five signs that it’s time to retire IT kit

29 Nov 2019