Warning issued by ICO to political groups in the run up to the local and European elections

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recently wrote to all the major political parties in the UK putting them on notice about the requirement that they must follow electronic marketing and data protection rules ahead of the upcoming elections later this May.

The ICO are addressing a number of concerns that have been raised about the use of political parties’ using market research surveys to obtain political support.

Legitimate marketing research may be conducted to assist a party in formulating policies but communications that claim to be research but are really intended to generate support for a certain political party are subject to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. The regulations apply to all forms of electronic marketing i.e. emails, calls and texts.

The ICO has issued detailed guidance explaining the regulations, the guidance provides inter alia that campaigning organisations must:

  • Only send marketing communications or make calls to those people that have consented to being contacted.
  • Clearly identify themselves and provide an easy way to opt-out of future direct marketing.
  • Make it clear whether they are carrying out market research by obtaining opinions or campaigning and seeking to get people to vote a certain way.

A spokesperson for the ICO commented “this is about political parties demonstrating best practice and being open and upfront with voters about their marketing activities, explaining to people in a transparent way how their personal details will be used”.

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