Civil Society organisations raise concerns over rules designed to prevent a new Cambridge Analytica

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recently issued a draft framework code of practice for the use of personal data in political campaigning. This draft guidance applies the ICO’s interpretation of UK data protection law to the context of political campaigning. This guidance can be read partly as a response to the political upheaval of the past few years, during which data driven political campaigning has come increasingly under the microscope.

Open Rights Group (ORG) organised a round table discussion event on the 25th September 2019 to discuss the ICO’s draft guidance. There were participants from academia, government, and civil society. Participants came to consensus about how the draft guidance could be improved. For example, there were several areas where the draft guidance did not clearly evidence what was requisite for compliance with data protection law. More specifically, the draft guidance was too narrow, focusing primarily on electioneering between political parties, with little consideration for party leadership contests or third-party campaign groups. Additionally, greater clarity is needed on how the financial value of ‘data assets’, such as data sets used by political campaigners, should be recorded.

Most significantly however, participants made a bold call for greater coordination between the ICO and the Electoral Commission. It is clear that it is in online political campaigning that data protection regulation and campaign finance regulation meet. Currently however, it is difficult for the ICO and the Electoral Commission to interact as effectively as they could. Additional resources, structural changes, and primary legislation were all proposed as potential remedies.

Pascal Crowe, Data and Democracy Project Officer for Open Rights Group, said:

“Better coordination between the ICO and the Electoral Commission is key step towards resolving the crisis in political campaigning online.
For example, better collaboration between them would allow regulators to more fully account for the financial cost of data sets used in political campaigning.
Our roundtable demonstrated that there is widespread support for measures to make interaction between the ICO and the Electoral Commission much more smooth.“

Notes to Editors
For further information please contact Federica Dadone, Communication Officer for Open Rights Group, at or 0207 0961079.

The ICO’s consultation on its draft framework code of practice for the use of personal data in political campaigning closes today.

A full list of points of consensus and signatories can be found here: