Challenging Data Exploitation in Political Campaigning: PI Recommendations.

These recommendations identify actions for governments, regulators, legislators, political parties and companies to help prevent data exploitation in political campaigning.

Key advocacy points
  • Much recent debate has focused on the content of election-related digital communications, e.g. ‘fake news’ and disinformation, particularly in the form of political adverts and messages we see on social media. At PI, we are interested in what is “behind the curtain” - what data has been collected and inferred about you that has resulted in you being targeted with this content.
  • More transparency is needed from all actors involved in digital political campaigns, including political parties and all companies, in order to shed much needed light on data gathering practices, how such data is used, in particular for profiling, and then how such profiles are used to target messaging.
  • Comprehensive data protection laws must be implemented and enforced. Any loopholes that can be exploited by political campaigns must be closed.
  • Electoral laws need to be updated for the digital age. They must reflect that digital political campaigning takes place outside the strict electoral period and require detailed and timely reporting on campaign advertising and financing.
Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

The entire election cycle is increasingly data dependent. This is particularly the case with political campaigns which are ever more digital and data driven. This campaign environment presents novel challenges due to the scale and range of data available together with the multiplicity, complexity and speed of profiling and targeting techniques. All of this is characterised by its opacity and lack of accountability. Existing legal frameworks designed to curtail this exploitation often also fall short, either in substance or enforcement.

We need to see actors around the world, from governments, regulators, platforms to political parties, taking measures to resist the current race to the bottom.

The first part of the report is dedicated to recommendations for governments, legislators and regulators. They focus on enforcing data protection laws, updating electoral laws for the digital age, increasing transparency and providing effective remedies.

The second part provides recommendations for Political parties and campaign groups, focusing on how to avoid data exploitation in campaigns.

The third part provides recommendations for the “ecosystem” of companies involved in political campaigning, such as platforms, data brokers and AdTech companies. The recommendations remind these companies of their duty to comply with the law and to be transparent about what data they are gathering, where from and what they are using it for.