Data protection watchdog urges transparency for elections

The data protection commissioner says data processing methods are constantly changing and a new digital reality has an impact on voter behaviour. Keystone/AP

Switzerland’s data protection and information commissioner has called for increased transparency standards from all sides ahead of October’s parliamentary elections.

Adrian Lobsiger said data processing practices in the political context are subject to a higher level of protection than that for commercial purposes.

A set of guidelines published by the national and cantonal data protection authorities in December urges political parties and service providers as well as social networks to make clear “how the digital world can influence voters’ choices and decisions”.

Lobsiger said voters must not be deceived by misleading or false information and about where or whom political messages come from.

He said the aim of the guidelines is to raise awareness at an early stage and to identify contact persons at all the major social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter.

However, a lack of resources will make it impossible to carry out comprehensive controls. Legal limitations also rule out sanctions against offenders, Lobsiger said.

Monday’s news conference coincides with international data protection day aimed at raising citizens’ awareness of privacy protection.

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