Data Commissioner warns politicians against sending unsolicited texts

24 Jan 2011

The Data Protection Commission has cautioned political parties prior to the upcoming general election to only communicate with individuals over text, email or phone if they have consented to giving them these contact details.

The commissioner Billy Hawkes has advised them not to obtain or use contact information through third parties and to avoid sending electoral messages to people, apart from those who can be assumed to have consented to receiving them.

Candidates are permitted to send letters to anyone on the Register of Electors, however, under the Data Protection Act.

This follows the numerous complaints the commissioner received in previous election campaigns, where people received unsolicited texts, emails and phone calls from candidates and political parties.

The people who received this had no previous contact with the political party or candidate and were concerned with how their contact details were sourced.

Investigations revealed these contact details were sourced from sports clubs, friends, colleagues and schools, which breached the Data Protection Act, as the individual did not consent to giving them this information.

“In the interests of good relations with the electorate, I urge parties and candidates to abide by these simple guidelines in the course of the forthcoming election,” Hawkes said.