Insights Information Commissioner’s Office publishes Guidance on the use of personal data in political campaigning


The Guidance is designed to support campaigners through the upcoming elections and beyond. It has been updated to reflect the UK GDPR and takes into account the use of personal data in modern campaigning practices to help ensure that election campaigns relying on digital techniques to engage with voters are conducted transparently and lawfully.

The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said in a blog post that the Guidance covers the full lifecycle of a campaign: from collecting and processing personal data of the electorate to using targeted messages during a campaign, to what to do with that data once a campaign is concluded. It includes useful examples on ways campaigners can carry out common political campaigning activities whilst complying with their obligations under data protection law. It also gives specific advice on complex areas such as the processing of sensitive categories of data that need special protection, for example, data that relates to racial or ethnic origin, health or political opinions.

Ms Denham reminds readers of the ICO’s investigation into the ecosystem of digital campaigning, which gave it a clear picture of how central the collection and use of data was to parties and campaigners. The ICO also carried out audits of seven political parties, which gave it even greater insight. This work has informed the drafting of the Guidance.

Ms Denham says that she will be writing to the political parties and other campaigners to draw attention to the updated Guidance. Adherence to the Guidance in the upcoming election campaigns is the best way to achieve compliance with the law, she says. “My experience has been that parties want to get this right: the value of digital engagement, supported by public trust, is clear for all to see”, Ms Denham concludes. To read the blog post in full and for a link to the Guidance, click here.