Voter databases, micro-targeting and data protection: Can political parties campaign in Europe as they do in North America?

Please note the date and time of this lecture has been changed - was originally 15 December, 16.00 hours

14Dec2017 12:30 - 14:00


ASCoR and IViR– Research Priority Area Personalised Communication Lecture by Professor Colin J. Bennett (Department of Political Science, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada)

In his talk, Professor Bennet will be expanding on the subject of his article in International Data Privacy Law, Volume 6, Issue 4, 1 November 2016, Pages 261–275,   

Recent elections in the USA and Canada have raised to public attention the general question of how political parties and candidates process and analyse personal data on individual voters. The conventional wisdom in both countries, whether accurate or not, is that the modern political campaign needs to be ‘data driven’ to consolidate existing support and to find potential new voters and donors. Although there are huge differences between presidential systems such as the US and European parliamentary systems, there is evidence that parties in other countries are drawing lessons from the US experience and that similar techniques are gradually entering their politics.

The academic literature on these subjects is still very under-developed. While there is an extensive work on the new ‘tech-driven’ politics as part of a larger assessment of changing campaign techniques and whether they actually affect voter engagement, very little of the commentary engages with the larger question about how voter data is being mined and profiled, nor evaluates the risks to privacy. On the plausible assumption that data-driven campaigning and associated micro-targeting techniques will increasingly be witnessed within European elections, what are the broader impacts on privacy, and what are the implications for data protection laws and for DPAs?

Short bio

Colin Bennett received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Wales, and his Ph.D from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since 1986 he has taught in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria, where he is now Professor -

He has enjoyed Visiting Professorships at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the Center for the Study of Law and Society at University of California, Berkeley, the School of Law, University of New South Wales, the Law, Science, Technology and Society Centre at the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels and at the University of Toronto.

His research has focused on the comparative analysis of surveillance technologies and privacy protection policies at the domestic and international levels. In addition to numerous scholarly and newspaper articles, he has written or edited seven books, including The Governance of Privacy (MIT Press, 2006, with Charles Raab) and The Privacy Advocates:  Resisting the Spread of Surveillance (MIT Press, 2008), and policy reports on privacy protection for Canadian and international agencies. He was co-investigator of a large Major Collaborative Research Initiative grant entitled “The New Transparency:  Surveillance and Social Sorting” which culminated in the report:  Transparent Lives:  Surveillance in Canada.   Through a new SSHRC Partnership Grant on “Big Data Surveillance”, he is currently researching the capture and use of personal data by political parties in Western democracies.  

More information:



If you plan to come, please register by sending an e-mail to




New Location at the IViR Institute for Information Law: REC A5.24

  • Roeterseilandcampus - building A

    Nieuwe Achtergracht 166 | 1018 WV Amsterdam
    +31 (0)20 525 5340

    Go to detailpage

Published by  ASCoR