Personal Data and Political Communications (Seminar)

Amber Macintyre

Wieviele: 15 max.

Wo: voraussichtlich 28.10. und 18.11. Präsenz- bzw Hybrid-Unterricht in Raum 0325 plus Zoom. 4.11. und 11.11. online, Zoom

Anmeldung bis 20.10.21 bei


October 28th, 10:00 – 13:00 Relating ourselves to personal data and political communications

November 4th, 10:00 – 13:00 How data is used in elections

November 11th, 10:00 – 13:00 Ethical data-driven communications

November 18th, 1:00 – 13:00 Using theories in practice: designing data-driven communications

This course will explore the theories of political communications and data-driven communications. These theories will be aligned with practical examples from political campaigns. There will be an outline of some of the research methods used to investigate such an opaque industry. Finally, we will spend a session reflecting on what the available data-driven tools and surrounding ethics mean for our own work. The course will be delivered through a mix of presentations, discussions and playful activities to explore participants relation to the topic.

To attend this course, you do not need any prior knowledge of personal data or political communications. Those who produce a reflective object developed from the course will receive a participation certificate for 1 SWS.

Across the world, political groups rely on personal data to design their communications. Working alongside private companies, political actors use information about people’s location, browsing history, past voting behaviours and financial status to decide whether the person is likely to support, be unsure, or actively not support a political cause. Based on this profile, and alongside information about what platform people are using such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Animal Crossing, and what fonts, colours, and keywords people are clicking on online, the political groups, and communication consultants they employ, can develop their communications.

While these practices have been put at the centre of a successful political campaign, various concerns have been raised due to their potential impact on citizens and voters. The infamous case of Cambridge Analytica revealed various aspects of these concerns: the now insolvent digital campaigning firm collected data from Facebook illegally, violating privacy and consent rights, they used personality profiling analysing the personal and emotional reactions of individuals beyond just their behavioural or demographic profiles, and they supported groups in contentious campaigns such as for Donald Trump’s Presidential election campaign and the EU referendum in the UK. Beyond this scandal, there are many issues with the use of data-driven methods to design political communications such as the ethics of consent, biased and inaccurate data, and the environmental impact of technology.

Reading Recommendations:

The guidebook pdf and visual gallery video for understanding data in elections:

The Organiser’s Activity book for activities for self-reflection on responsibilities of data use:

Theories for thinking about the ethics of data in NGOs:


Amber Macintyre will also be available for one-on-one meetings regarding your respective projects. To do so, please contact her after classes begin (10/18/2021).

Amber is a researcher and trainer working at Tactical Tech critically examining the use of personal data in campaigns, whether conducted by political parties for elections or NGOs and social action groups, and developing resources to encourage better practices. She is also a visiting lecturer in political communication, data ethics and human rights with an interest in playful pedagogy. She began working at Amnesty International, where she developed strategy on, and trained others in, how to use digital technologies in campaigns. Wanting to take a more critical angle on technology, she took time to reflect on the practices and completed a PhD that examines the ethical and effective use of personal data in NGOs.

Foto: Saskia Kaffenberger