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Data watchdog issues canvassing guidelines
DPC chief Helen Dixon

22 Jan 2020 / data law Print

Data watchdog's election canvassing guidelines

The data watchdog has published guidance for people being canvassed by political parties or candidates during the election.

The Data Protection Commission (DPC) says people have a number of rights when their personal data is used for the purposes of political canvassing or electoral activities.


Electoral legislation allows candidates or parties to use information contained on the electoral register to communicate with voters.

For example, under the Data Protection Act 2018 there is no legal right to object to electoral direct marketing by post. This legislation also includes certain other restrictions on an individual’s rights relating to personal data in the course of electoral activities.

The DPC points out, however, that people should receive non-postal direct marketing – such as emails, phone calls or faxes – from parties or candidates only if they have consented to receive such messages.

Door-to-door canvassing

The commission also says that there is no obligation on voters to provide personal data during door-to-door canvassing.

It adds that while this does not include all information shared during a face-to-face chat, it does cover any personal information recorded electronically or written down and kept on file.

The DPC’s guidance also refers to online political adverts on social media platforms. “If your personal data is being used to direct these ads, then whoever is responsible for those ads will need to be transparent about how your data is being used, including what their legal basis for doing so is, and with whom they are sharing your personal data,” it says.


The watchdog says people are entitled to “clear, concise and transparent” information about the collection and use of their data.

This includes the identity of the person for whom the information is being collected, why it is being collected, how it will be used and whom it will be shared with.

The watchdog adds that you have a right to access a copy of personal data held by any public representative, candidate or political party or group.

Political parties and candidates must also keep personal data accurate and up-to-date, and keep such data safe and secure.

People are also entitled to lodge a complaint with the commission if they feel their rights have been infringed.

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