A leading rights group has asked the UK Data Protection Agency to urgently investigate the role of shadowy political advice on demands that helped the Conservative Party win the 2019 general election.
The CT Group is a global lobbying and consulting company founded by longtime Tory employee Lynton Crosby. The CT Partners Limited deal represented nearly 40% of the Conservative Party’s £ 4.5 million market research / acquisition spend in the last election, far more than any other deal, according to Privacy International.
However, the rights group said it was consistently blocked by the company after trying to figure out exactly what services it was offering in the run-up to the general election.
Regulatory Authority The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is currently conducting an investigation into the use of personal data and data analysis for political purposes. It was triggered by revelations about the work of Cambridge Analytica, allegedly using data illegally collected from Facebook users and their friends to target voters in the 2016 US presidential election.
Hiring companies like Cambridge Analytica and CT Partners is becoming increasingly common in modern politics and is in itself completely legal.
However, there are growing concerns about how voters’ personal data is used to profile them in political campaigns, especially in opaque online micro-targeting where parties can say different things to different people in order to secure their vote.
COVID-19 has accelerated the trend for this type of virtual campaign, which relies on processing large amounts of personal data from people who often have no idea that they are being profiled in this way, according to Privacy International.
The not-for-profit political director Lucy Purdon argued that this “invisible processing” of personal data was at the center of her concerns about CT partners and could have a significant impact on GDPR compliance.
“Most people will not have a direct relationship with these companies and most of the time they will not know that they are being profiled for political purposes,” she said. “It is important that the democratic process is not undermined by these secret and opaque methods. The voters deserve better. “