Data regulator warns parties that election campaigns are being monitored

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Political parties have been warned that the data regulator will be watching over their general election campaigning activity to ensure it stays within the law.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has written to 13 main parties explaining that complying with personal data protection and electronic marketing laws is essential to trust and confidence in the democratic system.

“People expect their personal information to be used in line with the 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,” information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in the letter.

“It’s crucial that candidates and campaigners get this right, and the ICO will be monitoring the situation throughout.”

The regulator is directing parties to a draft framework code of practice for the use of personal data in political campaigning and sets out five important requirements to comply with the law before, during and after voters go to the polls on 12 December.

An ICO investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes uncovered a number of concerns linked to the use of commercial behavioural advertising techniques and the lack of transparency of profiling during recent political campaigns.

The organisation said it found several areas where action was required to improve each of the parties’ compliance with data protection law, which they had already been warned about in July 2018.

“People’s awareness of their data protection rights has never been greater, and their expectations that those rights are respected never higher,” Denham added.

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