The Cambridge Analytica scandal shed some light on how Facebook data was used by political parties. Although politicians refuted the findings, a new report from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) revealed that there is indeed a link between data brokers and politicians.
The ICO report found out that even limited information can be used in multiple ways such as crafting a political message made especially for individuals. The Conservative Party is thus apparently accusing of using this ‘onomastic data’ on voters, which is the information derived from the study of people’s names that leads to their ethnic origin and religion.
It is true that political parties are legitimately allowed to hold personal data on people in order to help them campaign more efficiently. However, these complex data analytics software is now able to combine information about individuals from various sources and find out about their voting patterns and interests. Something that is definitely concerning.
Yet, it is difficult to work out how do the parties get all of these data, apart from the electoral register.
It was recently discovered that Political parties have been using a product from Experian called Mosaic which uses data for political profiling. Experian is thus known to act as a data broker, among others, by collecting or buying data from other companies and then selling it to advertisers, or political parties. Using personal data can help political parties create specific messages, however, it also polarises the votes and restricts the political debate.
The report found out that millions of people had had their data collected by Experian and the ICO urges the company to make improvements in order to conform with the GDPR law on data privacy.
Therefore, there is a need for political parties to be very clear on how they intend to use these personal data while the Open Rights Groups urges to take much direct action to lead towards better behavior from the parties.
GDPR points out that it is essential that people know how their data is being used and thus, would vote for allowing voters to refuse the sharing of their data between a political party and a third party, such as a data broker. Yet, this might be difficult as we don’t know what data is collected.