Canada Election

Data-driven elections: Implications and Challenges

Voiced by Amazon Polly

Colin J. BennettDepartment of political scienceUniversity of VictoriaCanada[email protected]
David LyonDepartment of sociologyQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada[email protected]

PUBLISHED ON: 31 Dec 2019 DOI: 10.14763/2019.4.1433


There is a pervasive assumption that elections can be won and lost on the basis of which candidate or party has the better data on the preferences and behaviour of the electorate. But there are myths and realities about data-driven elections. It is time to assess the actual implications of data-driven elections in the light of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, and to reconsider the broader terms of the international debate. Political micro-targeting, and the voter analytics upon which it is based, are essentially forms of surveillance. We know a lot about how surveillance harms democratic values. We know a lot less, however, about how surveillance spreads as a result of democratic practices – by the agents and organisations that encourage us to vote (or not vote). The articles in this collection, developed out of a workshop hosted by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia in April 2019, address the most central issues about data-driven elections, and particularly the impact of US social media platforms on local political institutions and cultures. The balance between rights to privacy, and the rights of political actors to communicate with the electorate, is struck in different ways in different jurisdictions depending on a complex interplay of various legal, political, and cultural factors. Collectively, the articles in this collection signal the necessary questions for academics and regulators in the years ahead.Citation & publishing informationRECEIVED: November 19, 2019 REVIEWED: December 5, 2019 PUBLISHED: December 31, 2019
LICENCE:Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany
FUNDING: Funding for this special issue, and for the workshop where the papers originated, was provided by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Partnership Grant on “Big Data Surveillance”. Grant No: 895-2015-1003.
COMPETING INTERESTS: The author has declared that no competing interests exist that have influenced the text.
KEYWORDS:Micro-targetingPolitical behavourial targetingPolitical micro-targetingSurveillanceBig dataSocial media platforms
CITATION: Bennett, C. J. & Lyon, D. (2019). Data-driven elections: implications and challenges for democratic societies . Internet Policy Review8(4). DOI: 10.14763/2019.4.1433

Link to PDF