Personal data misuse in political campaigns: new rules for financial sanctions
- The Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed how personal data were misused in political campaigning
- Financial penalties for pan-European political parties and foundations who break the rules to gain illegal campaigning advantages
- New rules to come into force before the 23-26 May 2019European Elections.
To protect European democracy, MEPs establish financial penalties on EU level political organisations that deliberately misuse personal data in European Elections campaigns.
The European Parliament adopted on Tuesday new rules on political campaigning using personal data, with 586 votes for, 55 against and 24 abstentions.
Recent cases like the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal highlighted how the misuse of personal information may undermine the democratic process - which in this case involved a private company’s acquisition of millions of social media profiles in violation of the platform’s terms of service, and their subsequent use in US-based political campaigns. As a result, financial sanctions are being introduced for those European political parties and foundations which are knowingly operating outside of the data protection framework in their European Elections campaigns.
An independent eminent persons committee, constituted within three months from an enforceable decision of a member state’s supervisory authority, will be responsible for determining whether an organisation has acted deliberately. The Authority for European Political Parties and Foundations will have authority to impose sanctions, which could amount to a percentage of their current annual budget from the EU, as well as their exclusion from next year’s funding.
“The new provisions are aimed at protecting the electoral process from online disinformation campaigns based on misuse of voters' personal data. I am happy that we have managed to proceed with this file in such a timely manner,” stated AFCO Chair Danuta Maria Hübner (EPP, PL).
Co-rapporteur Mercedes Bresso (S&D, IT) said: “Ensuring that the European Elections are not distorted by any parties misusing European voters’ personal data is an absolute priority for us. We are taking an important step forward to protect democratic participation without unfair online manipulation practices.”
Co-rapporteur Rainer Wieland (EPP, DE) said: “We take data protection and democracy very seriously in Europe, and the speed and effectiveness of our reaction to the recent revelations proves just that. This is a truly important step in restoring citizens’ faith in the EU and democratic participation as a whole.”
Once the new provisions are approved by the Parliament, the Council is expected to adopt them in April, ahead of the European Elections. The new rules will be binding and directly applicable in all member states on the day of the regulation’s publication in the EU Official Journal.
Although member state rules apply to European Elections, the Parliament has legislative powers on matters related to data protection, cybersecurity and online transparency, as well as free and fair European elections and regulated election cooperation networks.
The European Commission put forward the proposal as part of a package focusing on free and fair European elections, as announced in the 2018 State of the Union speech. The original report was adopted unanimously by AFCO in December 2018.
The new provisions will amend the 2014 regulation on the statute and funding of European political parties and European political foundations. A political party at European level is an organisation following a political programme, which is composed of national parties and individuals as members, and is represented in several Member States.