UKIP is attempting to block an investigation into its use of analytics and profiling during the EU Referendum campaign, which is part of a wider probe by the Information Commissioner’s Office into political parties’ data practices.
The move has been revealed in a blog post by Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, who said that more than 30 organisations, including Canadian firm AggregateIQ which received millions of pounds from the Leave campaign, were being probed.
While a number of organisations have freely co-operated, “others are making it difficult”, Denham said.
She added: “In some instances we have been unable to obtain the specific details of work that contributed to the Referendum campaign and I will be using every available legal tool and working with authorities overseas to seek answers on behalf of UK citizens.
“Other organisations have failed to be as comprehensive as I believe they need to be in answering our questions and have forced us to invoke our statutory powers to make formal demands for information. The ICO has issued four information notices as part of the investigation including one to UKIP, who have now appealed our notice to the Information Rights Tribunal.”
At the heart of the investigation are concerns about invisible processing – the behind the scenes algorithms, analysis, data matching, profiling that involves people’s personal information. When the purpose for using these techniques is related to the democratic process, the case for a high standard of transparency is very strong, Denham insists.
The overall goal of the investigation is to provide insight into how personal information is used in political campaigns.
Denham added: “The Data Protection Act 1998 requires organisations to process personal data fairly and transparently and I doubt very much that the public understands what goes on behind the scenes in a political campaign let alone the potential impact on their privacy.
“Our investigation will describe for the public, civil society, academics, decision makers and political campaigners the realities of the data-driven political campaign. Are the rules for the use of personal data in political campaigns clear? What data sources are used for profiling the electorate for micro targeting? Are there no-go areas in the context of data analytics and social media in elections?”
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