Micro-targeting in political campaigns: political promise and democratic risk

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Data-driven personalisation is emerging as a central force in political communication. Political micro-targeting has the potential to enhance political engagement and to make it easier and more effective for political parties and movements to communicate with potential voters and supporters. However, the collection and use of personal information about voters also affects their privacy rights and can interfere with personal autonomy essential for democracy.

This chapter argues that the rise of data-driven communications requires a revaluation of the role of information privacy in political campaigns. Data protection laws have an important role to play in limiting the processing of personal data and requiring data practices to be designed in a manner that balances privacy and competing rights. In our view, there is no longer a good case for the retention in data protection laws of exemptions for political parties or actors, or overly broad provisions permitting data processing in political contexts.

Subjecting political parties and digital intermediaries to the general requirements of fair, transparent and lawful processing would go some way towards moderating political micro-targeting. The imposition of any privacy-based restrictions on political actors would enhance voter privacy, engender more trust in political communication and, ultimately, protect democratic discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationData-Driven Personalisation in Markets, Politics and Law
EditorsUta Kohl, Jacob Eisler
Place of PublicationCambridge UK
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781108880817, 9781108891325
ISBN (Print)9781108835695, 9781108813082
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • data protection
  • privacy
  • information privacy
  • political communication political campaigning voter privacy GDPR political parties data-driven politics
  • microtargeting
  • political campaigning
  • voter privacy
  • GDPR
  • political parties
  • data driven politics

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