Data and Democracy

Data and Democracy

Britain’s democratic process is undergoing a stress test it has rarely experienced. The increased use of personal data in campaigning and the use of social media, combined with scandals of the collection and use of that data, and the methods used to campaign including micro-targeting and misinformation, is having a negative effect on democratic trust.

This negative effect is often being diagnosed as a disenchantment from younger voters in the political process, and brings with it calls to introduce new methods of voting in elections such as electronic or online voting. While these new methods may have a role to play in modernising democracy they also present risk of sewing further distrust as reports of manipulation of votes cast electronically (either by kiosk or online) are made public.

The core value at stake is not necessarily democratic participation, that is a metric that is key but trust and integrity in the democratic process which is a core concern and driver for participation. Citizens want to know that their vote matters, that their vote will be counted as it is cast and that they aren’t being manipulated via misinformation in the canvassing of their vote.

Open Rights Group's Aims

  • Establish practical principles for assessing voting methods to maintain the integrity and trust of the electorate, coordinate election monitoring volunteers, provide materials and support to perform oversight of digital electoral methods.
  • Engage and work with policy makers to build consensus across political parties for the need to produce:
  1. Clear spending limits and reporting responsibilities on digital spending; and
  2. Rules on the use of personal data in political campaigns.
  3. Rules on social media and programmatic advertising, behavioural manipulation and machine learning.


Parliamentary Reports

Regulator Reports

Information Commissioner's Office, "Investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns", 6 November 2018.

Information Commissioner's Office, "Demcoracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence", 11 July 2018.

Independent Reports

The Constitution Society, "Data and Democracy in the Digital Age", 10 July 2018.

Demos, "The Future of Political Campaigning", 11 July 2018.


  1. Disinformation and 'fake news': Final Report,, 18 February 2019