Election candidates in the upcoming May local and European Parliament Elections have all recently received correspondence from the Data Protection Commissioner reminding them of their obligations with regards to communicating with the electorate.  Candidates were made aware that should any complaints be received by the office of the Data Protection Commissioner they will be investigated, with appropriate action taken.

Candidates and political parties must adhere to the clear statutory guidelines as set out the in the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Privacy and Electronic Communications) Regulations 2011, particularly in relation to the use of SMS, phone and e-mail in sending electoral messages. 

The Data Protection Commissioner highlighted the key points that they must adhere to in the guidance letter as follows:

·         Avoid sending electoral messages by electronic means to persons other than those who have consented to receiving such messages.

·         Ensure that those persons who have given prior consent to be contacted have opted-in within the last 12 months or have not opted-out within this time period.

·         Do not attempt to obtain or use third party contact information.

The obtaining of personal data in such circumstances, without the consent of the individual, is considered to be a breach of the Data Protection Acts 1988-2003.

Polling day is set for 24th May.