Information Commissioner warns political groups to campaign within the law

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Information Commissioner warns political groups to campaign within the law

The UK’s Information Commissioner has written to all major political parties reminding them of their obligations when contacting potential supporters during the General Election campaign.

Elizabeth Denham has also invited them to a briefing session on 4 May to hear details of updated guidance on political campaigning.

The guidance covers the rules around data protection and electronic marketing. It includes a section on the use of data analytics and associated technologies by political parties for campaigning purposes.

Ms Denham said:

“Engagement with the electorate is vital to the democratic process. But if a party or campaign group fails to comply with the law, it may face enforcement action as well as reputational damage to its campaign.

“The rules around nuisance calls, texts, emails and data protection are the same – General Election or not. People have a right to expect that their information will be used in line with the law and my office is here to uphold that right.”

The updated guidance and briefing is in response to an increase in complaints from members of the public about the promotion of political parties, their candidates and their views during political campaigns.

In recent years, the ICO has received complaints about the use of surveys to gain support for campaigns, spam texts and recorded marketing calls. People have also reported concerns that their personal information has been shared between national and local organisations.

The ICO’s message to the public is that there are things they can do to protect themselves:

  • Understand and agree to what you are signing up for before parting with personal information
  • Ask questions about how your information will be used
  • If you have concerns about how your information has been handled, complain to the ICO.

A full list of invited political groups is below:

Five main parties including Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish offices:

  • Conservative
  • Labour
  • Liberal Democrats
  • UKIP
  • Green
  • Scottish National Party
  • Plaid Cymru
  • Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)
  • Sinn Féin (SF)
  • Ulster Unionist Party (UUP)
  • Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP)
  • The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
  • Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV)
  • People Before Profit Alliance

The briefing session on 4 May will be held in London and hosted by Deputy Commissioner Rob Luke.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
  1. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.
  1. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new law that will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The government has confirmed that the UK’s decision to leave the EU will not affect the commencement of the GDPR.
  1. The ICO can take action to change the behaviour of organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal information. This includes criminal prosecution, non-criminal enforcement and audit. The ICO has the power to impose a monetary penalty on a data controller of up to £500,000.
  1. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:
  • fairly and lawfully processed;
  • processed for limited purposes;
  • adequate, relevant and not excessive;
  • accurate and up to date;
  • not kept for longer than is necessary;
  • processed in line with your rights;
  • secure; and
  • not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.
  1. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) sit alongside the Data Protection Act. They give people specific privacy rights in relation to electronic communications.

There are specific rules on:

  • marketing calls, emails, texts and faxes;
  • cookies (and similar technologies);
  • keeping communications services secure; and
  • customer privacy as regards traffic and location data, itemised billing, line identification, and directory listings. 

We aim to help organisations comply with PECR and promote good practice by offering advice and guidance. We will take enforcement action against organisations that persistently ignore their obligations.

  1. Civil Monetary Penalties (CMPs) are subject to a right of appeal to the (First-tier Tribunal) General Regulatory Chamber against the imposition of the monetary penalty and/or the amount of the penalty specified in the monetary penalty notice.
  1. Any monetary penalty is paid into the Treasury’s Consolidated Fund and is not kept by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
  1. To report a concern to the ICO telephone our helpline 0303 123 1113 or go to

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