back to article UK General Election 2017: How EU law will hit British politicians' Facebook fight

The internet is buzzing with claims about the role of data and use of algorithms by politicians to swing votes. Whether data played so important a part in campaigns from 2015 General Election to the EU referendum and how far data will shape the outcome of the upcoming snap General Election is interesting, but – ultimately – …

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  1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Appealing to the individual voter?

    "...to map the fears and desires of swing voters, and design highly personalised messaging that would appeal to them."

    Which basically summarises one of the (many) core problems of UK politics - the main parties are only interested in convincing each person to vote for them and put them in power. It doesn't matter if that means promising different random (and impossible) things to each voter, even if you know you can't deliver (£350 million...etc). Just tell them what they want to hear.

    If we want to clean up politics (and I think most of us do) we need to get to a point where the candidates for election say what they believe in. What are their principles and philosophy? What is their vision for a future Little-Snodbury-in-the-Wold, Britain, Europe or the World? It's good to know as well what specific policies they would implement to move towards that vision, but policies should come from what the candidate believes in, not be something to get the vote of Mrs F Ashist round the corner.

    The candidates task is then to persuade the voters to support their vision, not to promise them the impossible.

    There are some smaller parties who do actually work that way. I'll leave the reader to decide which ones.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

      ROBO-Appealing to the individual voter?

      It is just robocalling and cold calling banks for the 21st century. Quite effective.

      IMHO, this poster is a very good fit for the referendum and the last two anglo-saxon elections: https://www.amazon.com/Mr-Robot-Movie-Poster-18/dp/B01ANZRTMS

    2. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

      The candidates task is then to persuade the voters to support their vision, not to promise them the impossible.

      In your first paragraph, you bemoaned a system in which candidates get themselves elected and then do exactly what they want, regardless of any specific promises. As far as I can see, you're simply proposing a system where the candidates use a wishy-washy "vision" to garner votes, still get to do whatever they want in office, with the added convenience of not having to make up promises they won't keep. How does that help the poor, bemused Welsh hill-billies of Capel Curig?

      When they vote for Jezza, because he is "going to create a fairer Britain", what will that mean for them? They've got expensive energy bills because of the last Labour' government's energy policy (continued by the Tories); They've got shite education because Plaid is simply a public sector vested interest party, so neither of those problems will change. Is there some vast inequality between the wealthy elite of Waun Fawr, and the downtrodden of Talybont and Capel Curig that voting for some vague and poorly defined vision will see resolved?

      I'd remind you that last time we had a prime minister elected largely on a vision without policies, we got a vacuous socialist liberal, whose legacy was a bankrupted Treasury, a Middle East war that has now been raging for about fifteen years, mass migration that caused a popular revolt over EU membership, energy policy that couples high costs with no reserve margin, a bloated foreign aid programme when we can't even pay for the health services we want, and who started GCHQ's downhill roll into universal surveillance, etc etc. Is that really your idea of an improvement?

      1. bencoiacetto

        Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

        The previous Blair / Brown Labour is mentioned often when defending the current Conservative govt. The consistent factor running through both of these examples of government is deep corruption. I'll be voting Corbyn because he is by all accounts (and with a vast track record to prove it) the most morally robust, principled and honest politician around - even his enemies will admit this.

        1. wikkity

          Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

          As much as I like [most of] his policies I doubt he could get close to affording them. That said I personally think he would be much better that May when it comes to negotiating. Mays posturing is just going to get everyones backs up, she already has the EU against her and makes it worse every day. Corbyn comes across as actually sincere and can command respect, to those who politics does not mean arguing like school boys/girls. The negotiations are going to be long and hard, someone who can maintain respect rather than focusing on getting sound bite and newspaper headlines would be best placed.

        2. SkippyBing Silver badge

          Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

          'most morally robust, principled and honest politician around'

          It's just a shame some of his principles involve supporting people who were committing terrorist atrocities against the UK. Still at least he's consistent.

          https://capx.co/corbyn-has-a-shabby-history-of-backing-the-bad-guys/

          1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

              @Ledswinger re: "And deeply unpopular with his own party."

              And deeply unpopular with the Tories in his own party.

              TFTFY

              The sooner they leave and become the new SDP, the better.

            2. veti Silver badge

              Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

              Question for the Corbyn-lovers:

              Which of his policies do you like? Be specific. Please quote primary sources, i.e. articles written by the man himself, rather than spin doctors or journalists

              I ask because I tried to do some research on this topic, tracking down what the man himself has said, online, and I came up with - well, a lot more questions than answers.

              The record at jeremycorbyn.org.uk is patchy to say the least - it has a honking great gap through most of last year, when apparently nothing was posted. His page at labour.org.uk says nothing at all. www.jeremyforlabour.com apparently hasn't been updated in six months, since I last looked at it - and all the posts there are undated anyway, which is never a good sign.

              What does the man actually propose to do, if elected?

              1. Lars Silver badge
                Coat

                Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

                @veti, with no pretensions to solve any problems, a few thoughts.

                Politics has much become a sort of a beauty contest. The Bitch against the Tiredman or what ever.

                But if you think about it it's about a group of people against another group of people. Many groups of people hopefully.

                What group of people do you then feel, think, represent your look at life, at the society.

                It's all up to you. I may not advice you for inserting more power, as it may not be a good idea.

              2. wikkity

                Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

                Not a corbyn lover, but I like many of his policies.

                Re: Please quote primary sources

                Unless you turn up to hear him speak you aren't going to get many of those. You can always wait until their manifesto comes out officially.

            3. strum Silver badge

              Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

              >And deeply unpopular with his own party.

              That would be why his party elected him, twice, with an overwhelming majority.

              Don't believe everything you read in the Mail/Express/Telegraph/Murdochnews.

          2. bencoiacetto

            Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

            Your source here is CapX run by former editor of the Telegraph newspaper which is owned by the Barclay Brothers / tax evaders with Middle East oil interests so obviously CapX will manufacture garbage articles like the example you've provided. Corbyn is threatening dubious tax evading mechanisms of corporates like Barclay Bros and also opposes oil/natural resources leveraging / interventionism a catalyst for the Iraq War etc CapX looks like PR and about as credible as The Sun. Noam Chomsky - one of the most respected dissident intellectuals of our time endorsed Corbyn yesterday.

        3. The First Dave

          Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

          "Principled" doesn't really cancel out "stupid".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

        >a bankrupted Treasury

        If the treasury was bankrupt in 2010, when national debt was £700bn, how do you describe it now after 7 years of austerity when it is approaching £1.9tn and rising?

        The current government have borrowed more money than every other post-war government put together.

    3. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

      ....one of the (many) core problems of UK politics - the main parties are only interested in convincing each person to vote for them and put them in power.

      Er. That's nothign to do with "politics in this country", it's a fundamental issue with democracy. You'll notice that this section is number 25 in the arricle:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_democracy#Manipulation_or_control_of_public_opinion

      If we want to clean up politics (and I think most of us do)

      For values of "us" meaning "persons who have never bothered to join a party, let alone attend a meeting or deliver some leaflets". Hating on politicians is as easy and as lamebrained as going on about "rip-off energy companies" or "fat cat bankers". If you're a student, you get a free pass to be a naive idealist with no concept of the real world. The rest of us... not so much.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

        @Tom Paine

        "For values of "us" meaning "persons who have never bothered to join a party, let alone attend a meeting or deliver some leaflets".

        or possibly also meaning "persons who have been members of a political party for years, who have been branch officers, who have sat through too many dull meetings, who have knocked on uncounted doors and delivered many, many leaflets, who have stood for Parliament on more than one occasion, and for local councils, and who have been active parish councillors for quite a few years"

    4. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

      "need to get to a point where the candidates for election say what they believe in".

      On Monday or Tuesday.

      What surprised me before the referendum was how some sites simply rejected my comments when against "leave". As I was hardly the only one the result was of course that all comments repeated the same lies.

      Linked this on Politico some time ago and it was quickly deleted.

      Too disturbing?.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekZCpIVBjoo

    5. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: Appealing to the individual voter?

      "Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don't-

      I've come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,

      cut a little swathe and lead the people on."

      The Greatest Little Whorehouse in Texas

  2. frank ly Silver badge

    A question

    "The Data Protection Act clearly requires processing of data to take place in countries and using data processors that comply with EU Data Protection principles."

    Is that one of those tyranical foreign impositions that will be swept away by the glorious Brexit? (That's a genuine question. The cynicism is just my natural state.)

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: A question

      It could be, but it would mean that businesses in the UK would find it very difficult to do business with Europe.

      The UK could repeal the EU DP laws (RIPA is a good example of this, it has been rejected by the EU courts and the ECHR several times as being illegal / breaking human rights doctrines) and sent back to the UK Parliament for re-working. Post Brexit the UK government said STFU EU, we'll implement it anyway, even if it breaks human rights conventions in the EU.

      That alone will make it hard to do business in Europe post Brexit, if the UK government also castrates data protection law in favour of allowing big corporations to exploit its sheep voters citizens, then there will be next to no chance of UK businesses being able to effectively do business in Europe.

      1. Jane Fae

        Re: A question

        Yes. This, exactly. Right now loads of UK IT firms do business processing EU data. Kick out the GDPR and they are fecked. Instantly.

        I guess there is some argument, in terms of the rights of UK firms to do what the hell they like with customer data, for opting out of the GDPR. But anyone arguing that would then also have to argue why it would be a good thing for the UK to be barred from processing any data relating to people living in the EU

        1. lorisarvendu

          Re: A question

          Laws like this are often misconstrued as being somehow restrictive to the UK, as if the EU is forcing a law upon as that we don't want. This is actually a law that applies to the whole EU, and actually makes life easier for us while we're still in. It will be the removal of the Law by the UK that will cause the problem, not the keeping of it.

          1. big_D Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: A question

            The other thing is, like we have seen with RIPA, the EU has been protecting UK citizens from their own government, yet a slim majority still wanted to get rid of the EU, as it was interferring with the government interferring in their lives... :-S

      2. streaky Silver badge

        Re: A question

        The UK could repeal the EU DP laws (RIPA is a good example of this, it has been rejected by the EU courts and the ECHR several times as being illegal / breaking human rights doctrines) and sent back to the UK Parliament for re-working.

        Most of these cases have been fought under The Charter (EUCFR) as opposed to the directives, it's not clear if that will continue to apply. For UK citizens in the UK the GDPR will not apply post-brexit and *that* is why the point this article is trying to make is moot.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: A question

          It might be moot for UK citizens, it certainly isn't for UK businesses wishing to continue doing business with Europe.

          1. streaky Silver badge

            Re: A question

            it certainly isn't for UK businesses wishing to continue doing business with Europe

            I can list many ways it won't be.

            A few examples:

            * ring-fence EU citizens data and treat it as required by GDPR.

            * Don't deal with EU citizens (at all).

            * Ignore the GDPR entirely - it's not exactly as if it'll be verifiable and if something happens and they make a case out of it what's to stop you telling the EU courts to go f**k themselves.

            That's just a small sampling of the many many options available to UK business when we leave the EU (and incidentally those options apply to most EU regs).

            Almost nobody post-brexit is going to pay attention to the EU GDPR when we leave unless the government is stupid enough to keep it as part of our laws, which I find extremely unlikely. Most US business won't play to those standards so I doubt UK business will.

      3. Sparkypatrick

        Re: A question

        Leaving the EU does not mean leaving the EHCR. They are separate institutions. We signed up for the latter a long time before joining the Common Market. We actually helped draw it up.

    2. Jane Fae

      Re: A question

      It's saying: look, here are some principles that we, th4e Brits, have signed up to with respect to Data Protection, privacy, processing of data, etc.

      One big loophole to any such approach would be if any business could simply offshore its data processing operations and stick two fingers up to local law. So the DPA includes a principle to the effect that if you wish to be compliant, under the DPA, then you proccess only in countries/jurisdictions where data protection regs provide at least as much protection to the individual as they get in the UK.

      Now, times that by Europe. The EU worked out a broad position on data protection, which the UK was instrumental in devising, which has since found expression in various DP directives. The result: UK and EU law on data protection are harmonised and businesses don't need to worry, if they are processing data within the EU area, about cross-border transfers. Very handy when one works, as i once did, for businesses with pan-european sales forces and a single central database.

      Fast forward to next year: the EU, again, has, courtesy of the GDPR, tightened up on its data protection stance. The UK was involved in discussion of what those regs should be, and agreed to go along with them. The alternative would be opting out, at which point any UK business that processes data for EU companies would lose that business. Instantly.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2015 Election

    "In 2015, for instance, a change of heart by just shy of 900 people might have given the UK an entirely different result. The Conservative overall majority of 12 would have been overturned had just seven seats swung the other way"

    That's quite a big return for the "administrative error" on election expenses by the winning party.

    1. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: 2015 Election

      Oooh, a potential criminal offence in en El Reg comment... that's a new one!

      Bet you didn't know this:

      http://www.inbrief.co.uk/media-law/defamation-of-election-candidates/

      Five minutes with google comparing the seats where the Corbynistas have been shrieking about fraud with the seats where those 900 votes were distributed would have saved you some embarrassment, not to mention worrying about the law arriving :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2015 Election

        There was no defamation of people standing for election, rather a general comment about the administrative practises at a well-established, strong and stable political party.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 2015 Election

        Does this count?

        All electoral candidates standing for the current general election are lying robbing cheating self serving b*stards who eat babies and perform morally questionable acts with farm animals.

      3. Sooty

        Re: 2015 Election

        It's been investigated now, it was an "Administrative error". not enough evidence to say it is criminal, just that the people running the country are incapable of correctly filling out an expenses form..

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39865801

        "Although there is evidence to suggest the returns may have been inaccurate, there is insufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard that any candidate or agent was dishonest,"

        Careful wording if ever I saw it :)

        1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: 2015 Election

          "there is insufficient evidence to prove to the criminal standard that any candidate or agent was dishonest"

          In other words, beyond all reasonable doubt.

          Perhaps it should have been left up to a jury to decide if it met the standard?

  4. sebt
    Mushroom

    An odd argument

    "Perhaps party lawyers on either side are even now testing the water for loopholes: because, it could be argued, automated processing and the use of big data in the context of elections may have a significant aggregate effect overall – but a minimal effect on individual voters."

    How can that argument stand up? Even the prospect of a win by PryMincer MayBot is having a major effect on my alcohol intake.

    On the other hand, the German lessons and emigration plans are going well.

    1. soulrideruk Bronze badge

      Re: An odd argument

      I tweeted @theresa_may earlier with a question you might like to ask as well..

      @theresa_may What asylum arrangements are being made with the EU for us Brits who refuse to remain in an EU-less Britain?

  5. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Does "Big Data" take apathy on a rainy day into account on polling day?

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Yes,

      And people try to encourage apathy by suggesting to those voting the way they don't want them to that it's a done deal, so there is no need to go and vote.

      Compulsory voting would be good.

      As would AVS, or at least an option to either say 'vote for this person' or 'vote against this person'

      1. CentralCoasty
        Flame

        NOOOoooooooo! Compulsory voting!

        We have it over here in Australia and our governments are as morally corrupt & full of idiots as yours over in the UK.... and we have compulsory voting!

        At least in the UK the wanna-be polies have to actually get out of bed to try and get you to go to the polling booth (well maybe not themselves, but certainly one of their cronies have to get out of bed).... over here they can have a nice sleep-in knowing full well that unless they have peed you off more than the "other guy/girl" you are going to HAVE to vote for them......

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Does "Big Data" take apathy on a rainy day into account on polling day?

      Parties have been doing that for decades.Traditionally bad weather was seen as good for the Tories, since their supporters were more likely to have cars, leading Labour to organize buses in poorer areas. These days all parties have armies of car-owning volunteers to take people to the polling stations if they ask.

    3. Jane Fae

      Could do. Might not though.

      Sod it: i'm off back to bed....

  6. Alister Silver badge

    It is reported, too, that both the Leave and Remain campaigns used the services of analytics firm NationBuilder in 2016.

    Perhaps this explains why they both lied through their teeth in an effort to swing votes?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Perhaps this explains why they both lied through their teeth in an effort to swing votes?

      No, that was because they were both led by politicians.

  7. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Politicians do listen

    In my experience as a political activist in the UK, the political parties are the only organisations that take the Telephone Preference List seriously. That is the list of people who do not want unsolicited telesales calls.

    The parties know that an unwanted telephone canvassing call will lose them that vote.

    Politics is not a glamorous business and it has many critics who would not "dirty" their own hands. You look at some UK politicians and think, yes, they do reflect the less appealing elements in our voter database.

    But the alternatives are a lot worse. Dealing with people, and all the faults that people have, is not an easy task. It could be argued that President Trump is an example of what happens when a businessman rather than a politican is elected.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Politicians do listen

      Nah they don't.

      How easy would it me to... say...

      On the QT, engage an indian company to call on behalf of the opposition all those numbers on the TPS list especially in the key marginals?

      I'd probably put a tenner on that swinging the votes.

      Is it illegal?

      IANAL and that's my cop-out.

      If anyone found out, then [see icon]

      The Daily Flail would have a field day especially if it was JC's 'momentum' team that did it.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Politicians do listen

        Pretty sure Nixon did something similar, hiring mainly black people IIRC to call people during unsociable hours (often in the middle of the night) on behalf of the opposition candidate.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    preferences

    "while another might prefer their rhetoric to emanate from Boris Johnson"

    As a small-c conservative, large-C cynic I would rather nothing emanated from Buffoon Johnson.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: preferences

      As a small-c conservative, large-C cynic I would rather nothing emanated from Buffoon Johnson.

      Me too. Including exhaled breath.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beware Pollsters and their ilk

    Anyone calling me about anything to do with market research/surveys and the like get told in no uncertain terms where to stick it.

    It does not matter who they represent, my views are just that, my views. Not for merging into that crap cesspit called big data. If more people took this attitude then the valididty of the dataset would become suspect.

    If you want to mess with their stats even more, avoid things like Facebook etc between now an polling day. Don't play their game. Don't give them anthything to go on.

    If you do happen to get waylaid by a pollster while out shopping, give them a total bunch of bollocks for answers. I'd imagine that the Monster raving loony party might get a decent hike in the polling forecasts.

    Yours,

    Grumpy Old Man (fully paid up member btw)

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