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News Release - New research papers focus on surveillance and security of personal data during elections

Thursday, January 16, 2020

(January 2020) Research papers by top international researchers have been published in Internet Policy Review and they focus on the increase in political use of personal data during elections. The papers flow out of a workshop held last year that was co-organized by Queen’s University researcher and surveillance expert David Lyon and University of Victoria privacy scholar Colin Bennett.

The Big Data Surveillance (BDS) project event attracted some of the world’s top researchers in this field from Canada, the United States, Europe, and Brazil. The group addressed key questions including:

  • Efficacy of voter analytics
  • Accountability of major social media platforms
  • Regulatory responses in Europe and elsewhere
  • The impact on local party organizations
  • The capture, analysis and use of personal data during and between election campaigns

The Big Data Surveillance (BDS) project is associated with the Surveillance Studies Centre (SSC) at Queen’s. The workshop event was hosted by BDS partner, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia. British Columbia is the sole jurisdiction in Canada with the legislative power to regulate the data practices of political parties.


“The BDS project, partnering with privacy and civil liberties agencies, investigates the mushrooming use of data analytics across several areas of marketing, policing, security and ‘smart’ environments in order to show what key public issues are raised. Clearly, questions of freedom and fairness are central, along with major challenges to democratic practice.”

 “This is a surveillance issue because personal data are used without the knowledge or consent of Facebook users and analysed in order to influence voters’ choices through microtargeting.”

- David Lyon, Principal Investigator, Big Data Surveillance Project, SSC, Queen’s University


Internet Policy Review, open access journal on internet regulation, is published by the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin.



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Anne Craig Media Relations Officer 613-533-2877 anne.craig@queensu.ca

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