ICO Announces Investigation into Use of Data Analytics for Political Purposes

The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, has announced the opening of a formal investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes.

The purpose of the investigation is to understand and explore current practices and look at the impact of data analytics on individuals’ privacy. This will build on the current work of the ICO in looking at practices deployed during the UK’s EU Referendum campaign.

Announcing the investigation, the Information Commissioner states, “Engagement with the electorate is vital to the democratic process. Given the big data revolution it is understandable that political campaigns are exploring the potential of advanced data analysis tools to help win votes. 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.”

Ms Denham has also confirmed that this investigation is a high priority for her office although the timing of her decision is unrelated to the ongoing 2017 General Election campaign.

Responding to the announcement, Sue Daley, techUK’s Head of Cloud, Data, Analytics & AI said:

“Data analytics tools and technologies offer organisations of every size and sector the opportunity to unlock hidden insights from large datasets that can be used to deliver digital products and services.

“techUK welcomes the fact that organisations are increasingly recognising the role data analytics tools and technologies can play in helping them to gain knowledge data. However, there are concerns around data privacy and data protection which must be addressed if individuals are to have trust and confidence in these technologies.

“Making sure individuals have appropriate information, advice, support is vital. We support the work of the ICO in providing data protection and privacy information that is both user-friendly and accessible. It is also important to ensure individuals have access to the right mechanisms to make decisions over their data. The incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)will provide additional ways for citizens to exert that control. However, with GDPR still over a year away, it is important that specific concerns are discussed and addressed now so that we can build a culture of trust and confidence in the use of data analytics tools and technologies.”

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