Using your data to gain your vote

According to the BBC the  Cambridge Analytica scandal threw light on how the Facebook data of millions was harvested and turned into a messaging tool.

A report from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) Confiorms a relationship between politicians and data brokers.

ICO gave a scenario example where buying someone’s name can lead to making guesses about their income, number of children and ethnicity – which is then used to tailor a political message for them.

The report by the BBC goes a ahead to explain that Political parties can legitimately hold personal data on individuals to help them campaign more effectively. But sophisticated data analytics software can now combine information about individuals from multiple sources to find more about their voting characteristics and interests – something some people may find disturbing.

According to Jane Wakefield a Technology reporter with the BBC exaplining how the parties get the data she writes that

What has become clearer in recent months is the role of data brokers. Both the Conservatives and the Labour Party make use of a product from Experian called Mosaic, according to the Open Rights Group (ORG), which describes Experian as being a “one-stop shop for data used in political profiling”.

Experian is better known as a credit rating agency, but it also acts as a data broker, along with others such as Equifax and Transunion.

They collect data themselves or, in some cases, buy it from other companies, such as a credit card company.

They then sell it on to advertisers – or, in this case, to political parties.

A two-year investigation by the ICO found that millions of adults in the UK had had their data processed by Experian. The ICO recommended a long list of improvements the company needed to make in order to comply with the EU-wide GDPR law on data privacy. Experian is appealing.

A PI complaint sparked the ICO investigation. PI says “it is a complex and opaque industry, and we are just starting to chip away at how this eco-system works”.

On how political parties use your data, Jane Wakefield says that Having data on a person means that political messages can be personalised, and while this is a good way to hammer home specific messages, it could be argued that it is also giving people only part of the story about any given political issue.

According to PI it helps to create “echo chambers, polarise votes and restrict political debate”.

“If someone has the given name Mohammed, for example, it may be inferred that they are from an immigrant family and so messages about immigration can be tailored,” says Jim Killock from the ORG.

“Or if there are two people with the same surname living at an address, it can be guessed that they may be married and messaging tailored to that.”

Is there a solution?

The ICO says political parties need to be much clearer about how they intend to use personal data.

But the Open Rights Group thinks it needs much tougher action.

“If it does not crack down, there is no incentive for better behaviour,” it said.

One of the obvious ways would be to allow voters the ability to refuse the sharing of their data between a political party and a third party, such as a data broker.

GDPR stipulates that individuals should know exactly how their data is being used and agree to that.

But that could be harder because of how little is known about what data is being collected in the first place, PI’s Ms Purdon said.

“The data broker industry is so complex and while the GDPR gave people more rights over their data, how are you supposed to exercise those rights if don’t even know a company is collecting your data and profiling you?”

Parts of this article were first published on BBC

Share, follow and like Sichwa:

Have a News Tip or an Article? Email us at or
WhatsApp +254751956329.

You can also Join us on Telegram( for instant updades on Sichwa Jobs , Sichwa Sports , Sichwa News and Sichwa Posts

Related posts