What are the data security risks during the UK local elections?

3 min read

The build-up to the local elections in the United Kingdom on the 7th of May is already well underway. Politicians, political parties and campaigners are all working hard to get their messages and policies out to constituents in order to win their votes and represent their communities. At the same time, many people will be registering to vote to ensure their voice can be heard on election day.

Many of these processes, whether it’s campaigning or vote registration, today rely heavily on digital communications. While this makes the elections more accessible to political parties and voters, especially during a pandemic, as with all forms of external digital communications, these come with security risks which could potentially expose sensitive and personal information that may end up in the wrong hands.

Protecting personal data is key

There are many different ways for candidates to get their messages read and heard by constituents, one of which is email. In some cases, parties will have compiled and have access to a wide database of residents’ and members’ email addresses and will be sending them information on policies, voter registration and what they can do to help them win in this round of elections. In light of the pandemic and current social distancing restrictions, it could be argued that digital communications are more important than ever to get themselves in front of the electorate.

For example, many politicians and political parties will be relying on an army of volunteers and temporary staff to work on their campaign and spread their message. These individuals may not have the training or awareness of how to use data such as mailing lists in a secure way or how to safely send external communications to the electorate. Whether it’s through unsafe file sharing, accidentally sending communications to the wrong recipient or typing the wrong email address, a lack of knowledge of best practice could lead to information accidentally being shared or leaked, reflecting badly on the party and potentially damaging their election hopes.

From a voter registration perspective, lots of people will be going online and sharing personal information, including their addresses and contact details, in order to ensure that they are able to take part in the local elections. This sensitive data will be being collected by the local councils and their employees, who will cross check it to ensure that the person is indeed who they say they are and making sure they are eligible to vote.

This again could present security risks and potentially see valuable information leaked or fall into the wrong hands. With lots of personal information being collected and stored, without the right solutions or training in place, this data could be accidentally leaked or shared with unintended recipients, giving them access to huge numbers of individuals’ details.

Enhance email security with error prevention technology

If political parties, campaigners and government officials want to ensure all data leaks or external communication risks are protected as much as possible during the local elections, they need to look at the systems and processes they have in place. Through ensuring platforms are implemented that can flag when staff or volunteers are not working safely and prevent them from doing so, such error prevention technology will help ensure that the risk of data being leaked or shared with the wrong people is kept to a minimum. At the same time, providing clear instruction and guidance to temporary staff and employees who may have never worked with digital communications in this way before on best practice will help them understand how to share information safely, again helping reduce the risk of a breach or leak.

The local elections are an important event where people get to say who and how they want to run their communities. As such, it’s important that their information is used in the right way and protected. Through technology and education, politicians, campaigners, volunteers and employees will have all the tools necessary to work in a safe, secure and effective way and ensure the elections go off without a hitch.

Want to learn more about email data protection solutions and how they work?

Check out a recent webinar hosted by Scott Daly. In it he explains the need for people to re-evaluate their email security, and gives you nine reasons why you should.

You can watch it now here.

Prefer to do some light reading instead?
No problem. Here's an article on re-evaluating email security, download it here.

Written by

Kate O'Neill

Originally published on April 16, 2021

Last update on April 16, 2021