Political parties warned to respect privacy

With the general election expected to be announced within a month, the Information Commissioner has warned political parties and candidates to ensure they respect rules on data privacy. He put politicians on notice having recently found against the Labour Party for failing to screen telemarketing lists against the Telephone Preference Service.

Speaking at the DMA Data Protection Conference last week,  Christopher Graham said: “For good reason, there are strict rules concerning the way in which political parties and candidates can contact unsuspecting members of the public with campaign and promotional materials. They are the same rules that apply to anyone else marketing a product.”

The ICO has published updated guidance on the use of direct mail, email, text, outbound telemarketing and automated phone calls. Any campaigning which encourages an individual to vote for a specific party or candidate, donate funds or support a campaign is considered to be marketing and therefore covered by the rules.

Said Graham: “This guidance will help political parties respect people’s privacy rights. I strongly urge the parties to adhere to the ICO guidance, especially as their collective track record to date has been disappointing. We have taken enforcement action to uphold the law in the past and, with stronger powers available to me in just a matter of weeks, I intend to make sure that everybody stays in line.”

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