8 November 2019
BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT is backing a call for politicians of all persuasions to do the right thing when it comes to using data to influence voters. The UK’s Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has written a letter to all the main political parties, reminding them to use people’s data lawfully during the General Election campaign.
As the professional body for the digital industries, BCS is backing this appeal and has come up with its own top ten guidelines for a digitally ethical election that says voters should be provided with:
- a proper context for what the data is about
- where the data is gathered from
- what the data is used for
- transparency about how data is processed - including removing bias and ensuring validity
- scrutiny of the fitness of the data as far as is possible
- a mechanism for appropriate corrections or amendments if significantly flawed
- clarity on how the data has been used to support policies, or campaigns
- published data allows the public to come to objective, informed conclusions about the impact on policies/manifestos/etc.
- openness about the types of AI models used to provide personalized political messages to voters
- an explanation in general terms of the types of AI models and data analysis techniques being used – for instance machine learning algorithms used to generate campaign messages.
Director of Policy at BCS, Bill Mitchell said: “Democracy needs properly informed citizens, who are given all the relevant facts in a form they can make sense of. It’s vital in this election our politicians show leadership by being straight with voters about the data and AI they are using to influence them.”
Data and AI can be used to micro target voters, sometimes without their knowledge. In addition, there is alarm about the rise of fake news and misinformation.
In a letter to all the main parties the Information Commissioner, Ms Denham said: “People expect their personal information to be used in line with law, and where that doesn’t happen in digital campaigning, there’s a danger that public trust and confidence in the broader democracy process is damaged.”