Elections in most countries have become increasingly “data-driven”. “Political influence industry” operates in many countries and now enables campaigns to profile the electorate with increasing accuracy. Political micro-targeting is not only about political engagement, it can also lead to voter suppression.
International instruments for the protection of data, such as Convention 108 and its modernised version – Convention 108 +” – assume an increasing importance in the support of the broad democratic principles of pluralism and individual autonomy, and apply sound data protection principles which contribute to the strengthening the integrity of elections and maintaining trust in democracy in the digital age. Convention 108+ is explicitly rooted in a broad aim “to secure the human dignity and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every individual.” The protection of the right to privacy in political campaigns is crucial to the conduct of free and fair elections, as expressed by the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the principles of free expression and robust public debate in both offline and online media.
Based on this, the Committee of Convention 108 adopted Guidelines on the Protection of Individuals with regard to the Processing of Personal Data by and for Political Campaigns with the aim to provide practical advice to supervisory authorities, regulators and to political organizations about how to reconcile the privacy rights of the voter and the democratic obligations of political campaigns to communicate with the electorate. The Guidelines demonstrate how the processing of personal data for the purposes of political campaigning should comply with the Council of Europe’s Modernized Convention 108+ and offer a framework through which individual data protection authorities, and other regulators, may provide more precise guidance tailored to the unique political, institutional and cultural conditions of their own democratic states.