Political Profiling: From the US to the EU, Data Protection Regulation from a Transatlantic Perspective

68 Pages Posted: 2 May 2018

See all articles by Aikaterini Pouliou

Aikaterini Pouliou

Tilburg University - Tilburg Law School, Students

Date Written: January 3, 2018


How is the profiling of (potential) voters for political communication purposes currently regulated in the US and in the EU, from a data protection perspective, and how could future regulation affect such profiling? This Master's Thesis, inspired by the seemingly ever-expanding phenomenon of the profiling of voters and the contingency of such practices being brought from the US to the EU grounds, aims at providing an elaborate analysis of the framework that regulates the profiling of voters’ behaviour in the two regions, with particular focus on the EU regulation, criticize it and discuss the points in the regulatory approach that could be improved in the future. Profiling practices have been claimed to be, among others, opaque and highly intrusive. They have been criticised for their capacity to affect voters’ behaviour to the point of manipulation, due to their increased degree of persuasiveness. They have the potential to create a chilling effect on individuals in relation to their voting behaviour. Additionally, they could potentially exclude individuals form receiving political communication, hinder public debate and consequently impede their participation to political life, which constitutes a menace to the democratic system.

This thesis introduces the concept of voter data, followed by a brief description of the practices deployed by major political parties in the US for the exploitation thereof. It provides a brief outline of the governance of such data, the limitations of the law and the discussions around these limitations, which is deemed necessary in order to gain an understanding of the regulatory differences between the US and the EU, as well as to highlight the contrast between them. An overview of the currently applicable European legal framework regarding data used for political purposes is subsequently presented. The thesis intends to answer the question whether individuals who are subject to political profiling are granted the right to object and the right not to be subject to automated decision-making by the GDPR . It also explores the provisions related to the processing of special categories of data and their interrelation to political profiling. The idea of the prohibition of political profiling, the role of research and the means with which transparency in this area can be achieved, are weighed upon.

Keywords: profiling, political profiling, data protection, regulation, GDPR, EU, US, privacy, elections, micro-targeting, online behavioral targeting, political communication, automated decision-making, voter data, direct marketing, political campaigns, right to object, transparency, Cambridge Analytica

Suggested Citation

Pouliou, Aikaterini, Political Profiling: From the US to the EU, Data Protection Regulation from a Transatlantic Perspective (January 3, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3160549 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3160549

Aikaterini Pouliou (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - Tilburg Law School, Students ( email )


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