The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced it will formally investigating the use of data analytics during election campaigns, following concerns over the use of social media during the EU referendum last year. UKIP will also be facing a tribunal over how it used analytics during its campaign to target voters online.
A statement on the ICO’s website said “We are concerned 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,”
Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, said that four formal notices had been issued already, which have ordered political organisations to reveal information on how they use analytics. She said that this was “including one to UKIP, who have now appealed our notice to the information rights tribunal”
“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,” the commissioner said in her statement.
The electoral commission has also stated that they will be investigating funding during the referendum, as Vote Leave have been accused of breaking spending laws and coordinating their spending with other campaign groups.
Vote Leave spent £2.7 million with AggrergateIQ during the campaign from their total budget, which is capped at £7 million. Vote Leave also made donations to Darren Grimes during the campaign, who spent the money with AggregateIQ. The total of the donations came to £625,000, which would take them over the spending cap that had been put in place.
Millionaire hedge fund manager Anthony Clake is also being accused of making donations to Darren Grimes during the campaign, which was also paid to AggregateIQ. Clake commented that he was advised by Vote Leave to make the donation to Grimes, even though he initially intended to donate the money directly as “they were close to their spending limits”.
A spokesperson for UKIP claims that the party is fully prepared to cooperate with the ICO’s investigation and provide any information requested throughout the tribunal. They also claim that they are not appealing against the tribunal taking place, but only against the threat of criminal sanctions being taken. A spokesperson for the political party said that “We’re perfectly happy to deal with them, but not under the threat.”
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