ICO Publishes Landmark Report On Data Analytics Abuse in Political Campaigning in the UK

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The Information Commissioners’ Office has published a new report investigating the role played by data analytics in political campaigns. The “behind the scenes” algorithms, that the ICO argue are vacuuming up personal information has created an unregulated and invisible process that is harming the wider body politic.

The ICO states:

“Throughout our enquiries we found a disturbing disregard for voters’ personal privacy by players across the political campaigning eco-system — from data companies and data brokers to social media platforms, campaign groups and political parties.

Where there have been breaches of the law we have acted. We have issued monetary penalties – including the maximum £500,000 (under the previous law) to Facebook – and enforcement notices that compel companies and campaigns to comply with the law. We’ve instigated criminal proceedings against SCL Elections Ltd and referred issues to other regulators and law enforcement agencies. And where we have found no evidence of illegalities, we have shared those findings openly too.

But it’s not just about enforcement action. We are at a crossroads. Trust and confidence in the integrity of our democratic processes risks being disrupted because the average person has little idea of what is going on behind the scenes.”

The “scant regard” for personal data has eroded trust and confidence in the UK, and global, political experience. The self-regulatory frameworks currently in place, the ICO argues, don’t provide guaranteed protection and consistency. The ICO’s report concludes with a call for a new “code of conduct” to help legitimise political algorithm usage whilst protecting the political arena from fraud.

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