The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will formally investigate the use of data analytics for political purposes.
The organisation had announced in March that it was conducting an assessment of the data protection risks arising from the use of data analytics. While the ICO said it understood that political campaigns would seek to explore the potential of big data analytics to win votes, it maintained that this should take place in accordance with the law.
The likes of machine learning company Cambridge Analytica and behavioural profiling company AggregateIQ have been linked with political campaigns for Donald Trump and Vote Leave, and have caused concern among privacy campaigners and watchdogs.
In a blog post, the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, said that it was a complex and rapidly evolving area of activity and the level of awareness of the general public about data analytics from collection to analysis is low.
"What is clear is that these tools have a significant potential impact on individuals' privacy. It is important that there is greater and genuine transparency about the use of such techniques to ensure that people have control over their own data and the law is upheld," she said.
Just two months on from beginning to look at the use - or misuse of analytics - Denham said that she has considered the evidence the ICO already has and has decided to open a formal investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes.
"This will involve deepening our current activity to explore practices deployed during the UK's EU Referendum campaign but potentially also in other campaigns. Given the transnational nature of data the investigation will involve exploring how companies operating internationally deploy such practices with impact or handling of data in the UK," she said.
Denham said that to get a better picture of such practices would require detailed investigative work and engagement with a range of organisations including political parties, data companies, social media platforms, as well as international cooperation.
She added that the investigation was a "high priority" for the ICO and that it would provide an update later in the year. While the investigation coincides with the ongoing campaigining ahead of the General Election, Denham said her decision was unrelated to the current campaign.
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