Micro-targeting in Political Campaigns: Political Promise and Democratic Risk

To be published in: Uta Kohl and Jacob Eisler (eds), Data-Driven Personalisation in Markets, Politics and Law (CUP, 2021 Forthcoming)

Monash University Faculty of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3717561

13 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2020

See all articles by Normann Witzleb

Normann Witzleb

Monash University - Faculty of Law; The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Moira Paterson

Monash University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: October 15, 2020

Abstract

Data-driven personalisation is emerging as a central force in political communication. Political micro-targeting has the potential to enhance political engagement and to make it easier and more effective for political parties and movements to communicate with potential voters and supporters. However, the collection and use of personal information about voters also affects their privacy rights and can interfere with personal autonomy essential for democracy.

This chapter argues that the rise of data-driven communications requires a revaluation of the role of information privacy in political campaigns. Data protection laws have an important role to play in limiting the processing of personal data and requiring data practices to be designed in a manner that balances privacy and competing rights. In our view, there is no longer a good case for the retention in data protection laws of exemptions for political parties or actors, or overly broad provisions permitting data processing in political contexts.

Subjecting political parties and digital intermediaries to the general requirements of fair, transparent and lawful processing would go some way towards moderating political micro-targeting. The imposition of any privacy-based restrictions on political actors would enhance voter privacy, engender more trust in political communication and, ultimately, protect democratic discourse.

Keywords: data protection; privacy; information privacy; microtargeting; political communication; political campaigning; voter privacy; GDPR; political parties; data-driven politics

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K39, K40, K49

Suggested Citation

Witzleb, Normann and Witzleb, Normann and Paterson, Moira, Micro-targeting in Political Campaigns: Political Promise and Democratic Risk (October 15, 2020). To be published in: Uta Kohl and Jacob Eisler (eds), Data-Driven Personalisation in Markets, Politics and Law (CUP, 2021 Forthcoming), Monash University Faculty of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 3717561, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3717561

Normann Witzleb (Contact Author)

Monash University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800
Australia

The Chinese University of Hong Kong ( email )

6/F, Lee Shau Kee Building
Shatin, New Territories
Kowloon, Sha Tin
Hong Kong

Moira Paterson

Monash University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Wellington Road
Clayton, Victoria 3800
Australia

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