The ICO exists to empower you through information.

With local elections in England and Northern Ireland on the horizon, we know many people have questions about how their data may be used during an election. Personal information is an important part of political campaigning. It allows political parties to get crucial messages to voters and helps them to understand the key issues for different people.

For the first time this year, voters in England will need to show a form of Photo ID in some elections, including the upcoming local elections. You only need to show your ID to polling station staff, and you can asked for it to be checked in private. This will apply to general elections from October 2023. If you don’t have accepted photo ID, you can apply for a free Voter Authority Certificate. The deadline for this is 5pm on Tuesday 25 April. For more information, visit the Electoral Commission website.

To vote in Northern Ireland you will need to produce a form of photo ID to confirm your identity. Please visit the Electoral Office for Northern Ireland website for more information.

What should I expect?

Expect clear privacy information

It should be clear to you from the outset how a political party is using your personal information and the information should be easy to understand.

For example, if a political party sends you a form so that you can register for a postal vote then it should be clear how the political party will use your information. It should not come as a surprise if that data is used as part of an election campaign. Read more on your right to be informed.

Expect to be told if a political party is using profiling techniques

Political parties are entitled to receive a copy of the full electoral register, this contains information such as your name, address, nationality and age. Political parties build on this information with direct interviews with members of the public, with publicly available data such as census data and by buying data from data broking companies.

If a political party combines information about you from several different sources, this is known as profiling. Political parties use this technique to learn more about voters and to send targeted marketing.

If a political party is using profiling techniques, it should be clear to you and you should be given the opportunity to object.

Expect clear information about social media advertising

Social media advertising is used by all parties to promote their work, but it’s important that it is clear to people if they are being targeted. Political parties should make it clear that people’s personal information will be used to send them specific social media advertising.

Expect to be told how information from a petition or survey will be used

If a political party asks you to complete a survey or a petition, they should be clear how that data will be used in the future. In many cases, it will not be appropriate for a party or candidate who has collected information for a specific petition or survey to repurpose that information for political campaigning.

If you are concerned about how your information is being used, you can exercise your right to object.

What should I do if I am concerned with how my data is being used?

You have the right to be confident that political parties handle your personal information responsibly and in line with good practice. If you’re unhappy with how your data is being used, we have guidance to help you raise a concern.