Political campaigns and micro-targeting

8th July 2019

Whenever it gets closer to election time, you may notice that the amount of political mail and advertising you receive will start to increase, even if you haven’t signed up for any.

There is a growing trend for political campaigns to disregard voters’ personal privacy and using their social media and electoral register data in an attempt to manipulate voters.

This method of retrieving and using personal data is called micro-targeting.

Is micro-targeting legal?

All political parties, candidates and registered participants such as referendum campaign groups are allowed a copy of the full electoral register, which includes all the addresses of people registered to vote in the UK.

So, although Data Protection law doesn’t restrict this, there is a definite lack of transparency by political parties and campaign groups about the fact they are using them.

This has caused issues with recipients because in many cases that individual didn’t know their data was being used in that way. And THAT goes against one of the key principles of data protection law: organisations must process personal data fairly, ensuring that people know what is happening with their data.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is cracking down on this misuse

The ICO have made a number of recommendations about how the transparency and ethical nature of these practices could be improved, and have sent this out to all parties.

Alongside this, all of the main political parties can expect to be served an assessment notice, meaning that ICO will complete audits of their practices, encouraging them to be more transparent about how they use public data.

The right to object

Social media accounts are the number one area to focus on when it comes to securing your personal data. Facebook is particularly vulnerable, so we recommend altering and tightening your security settings. Google and YouTube are other platforms that can become a security issue, although Facebook is the only company to admit to sharing their users’ data with others.

It’s important to remember that every individual has a number of strong rights under data protection law. We all have a right to get copies of our data and we have a right to object to the use of our data too.

It remains to be seen how many people will use these rights, but whether you are a political party, a company, a charity or a local authority or any other kind of organisation, it is prudent to ensure your data protection practices are on point.


Contact us at 01673 88 55 33 today if you require any help, advice or training.

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