Information watchdog to review data practices of UK political parties

Written by Emilio Casalicchio on 11 July 2018 in News

Information Commissioner issues social media giant Facebook with a £500,000 maximum penalty

Image credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Parliament's information watchdog has vowed to review the data practices of UK political parties after it imposed a record fine on Facebook over a scandal-hit campaign firm.

The Information Commissioner issued the social media giant with a £500,000 maximum penalty for failing to ensure political consultancy Cambridge Analytica had deleted users’ data.

It also ordered Aggregate IQ (AIQ) - another political ad firm that worked with the Vote Leave campaign on the EU referendum - to stop processing the data of UK citizens.

The ICO launched a probe into the use of data by political parties in the wake of allegations Cambridge Analytica illicitly harvested Facebook information for unauthorised use.

It found Facebook breached its own rules by failing to ensure the UK company had deleted the data, and it vowed to bring criminal action against SCL elections - the parent firm of Cambridge Analytica.

But the ICO also trained its sights on other political parties - raising concerns about the purchase of information from “data brokers” who may not have obtained the necessary consent.

The watchdog has written to the 11 main political parties in the UK demanding access to audit their data protection practices.

Elsewhere, the ICO said it was looking into whether AIQ had accessed voter data handed over by Vote Leave from outside the UK and whether that would amount to a data protection breach.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “We are at a crossroads. Trust and confidence in the integrity of our democratic processes risk being disrupted because the average voter has little idea of what is going on behind the scenes.”

She added: “New technologies that use data analytics to micro-target people give campaign groups the ability to connect with individual voters.

“But this cannot be at the expense of transparency, fairness and compliance with the law.”

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