The UK Data Protection Authority (ICO) has published a very interesting report entitled "Democracy
disrupted?Personal information and political influence".
This report intends to ‘draw back the curtain’ on how personal information is used in modern political campaigns. It summarises the policy findings from our data analytics investigation, making recommendations in respect of the transparent and lawful use of data analytics in political campaigns in the future. Digital political campaigning can involve a range of organisations in a complex ecosystem – political parties, campaign groups, social media companies data brokers and data analytics providers. A key aim of the investigation was to explain how all of these components worked together and evaluated whether data protection compliance was effective throughout the system.
One of the most concerning findings from the investigation was a significant shortfall in transparency and provision of fair processing information.
In response the Information Commissioner is calling for an ‘ethical pause’ to allow the key players – Government, Parliament, regulators, political parties, online platforms and citizens - to reflect on their responsibilities in respect of the use of personal data in the era of big data, before there is a greater expansion in the use of new technologies.
The Information Commissioner has formally written to 11 UK political parties detailing the outcome of the investigation and the steps that need to be taken. The parties are required to report to her on the actions taken within three months. The ICO will follow up with mandatory audits.
The ICO will also be monitoring political parties, online platforms and data brokers using new assessment powers so that the public can have confidence parties and campaigns are complying with the law. A significant finding of the ICO investigation is the conclusion that Facebook has not been sufficiently transparent to enable users to understand how and why they might be targeted by a political party or campaign. Whilst these concerns about Facebook’s advertising model exist generally in relation to its commercial use, they are heightened when these tools are used for political campaigning