Scottish Elections: the digital rights agenda

One month from now, Scottish voters go to the polls to have their say on the next five years of democratic representation. Ahead of the elections, ORG Scotland will be engaging with our membership, and Parliamentary candidates, on the digital rights issues which impact our lives in Scotland every day.

Our electoral work over the next month will have two focuses. First, we want to ensure that voters in Scotland connect with their Parliamentary candidates on the key digital rights issues that impact us. And second, we want political parties in Scotland to run open, accountable and transparent digital campaigns – a need which has taken on even greater importance during lockdown measures which will prevent traditional campaigning.

Here’s what you can expect from us over the next month.

The issues on the table

Many of the areas which ORG focuses on, such as data protection regulation and online harms, are dealt with in Westminster as reserved matters. However, there are a number of digital rights issues which help shape our work in the devolved context. Working in consultation with our membership and our Scottish Advisory Council, we have selected three areas of focus for our electoral activities. They are:

Digital Identity and Privacy

This will cover engagement and debate on devolved frameworks such as the Digital Identity Scotland system, identity databases, and any potential vaccine passports.

Policing and Surveillance

This will cover monitoring and transparency in the uses of emerging technologies in policing and law enforcement, as well as independent oversight of these activities.

Freedom of Expression online

This will cover the standards, safeguards, and regulations necessary, both in the devolved and wider contexts, to safeguard freedom of expression online.

Over the next week, we’ll be sharing more about each of these areas in depth.

Engaging with the candidates

ORG Scotland has engaged with several of the political parties directly on their manifestos and commitments to digital rights, and will continue our engagement throughout the month. You can learn what they have to say at our campaign portal, which we’ll be launching later this week.

We’ll also be holding a joint Human and Digital Rights hustings with our friends at Amnesty Scotland on the evening of Tuesday 20 April at 7 PM. Candidates from the political parties will be in attendance to take our questions, and yours too. This will be an online event, and we’ll share details on how to register to attend shortly. Save the date!

A digitally accountable campaign

With lockdown not lifting until the end of the month, this election campaign will be conducted almost entirely online. This makes it more important than ever to monitor the conduct of Scotland’s political parties to ensure that their campaigns are fair, open, and accountable.

ORG has played an active role in holding political parties to account on their uses of voter data. Our campaigning played no small role in the ICO’s recent publication of refreshed guidance on political parties’ use of voter data during election campaigns.

Throughout the campaign, and working in partnership with FairVote, we’ll continue to engage with the parties on their implementations of the new guidance, monitor their practices, and call out their mistakes.

Who’s targeting you?

Finally, if you’re a Facebook user in Scotland, we encourage you to download and install the political ad tracking toolbar created by Who Targets Me. This privacy-safe desktop browser extension helps to create a valuable data set which researchers can use to understand how parties are spending their money, and targeting potential voters, during a digital-only electoral campaign.

Hear the latest

Keep up with Open Rights Group’s work in Scotland.