Regina, Saskatchewan, September 11-13, 2018
Recent high-profile investigations in the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and elsewhere reveal that political parties are gathering significant amounts of personal information on voters as they adopt micro-targeting techniques.1
Political parties also hold personal information on volunteers, employees and candidates.
These practices have the potential to significantly impact the privacy of citizens and undermine their trust in the democratic system.2
At present, British Columbia is the only jurisdiction in Canada where political parties are subject to privacy legislation. It is also the only province where voters can complain to an independent body about a political party’s privacy practices.
The federal government tabled Bill C-76 (the Elections Modernization Act) earlier this year requiring registered federal political parties to develop privacy policies and publish them online.3
However, Bill C-76 does not establish standards for political parties to follow in the handling of personal information nor does it establish an independent body which would oversee how their privacy practices are implemented.
The Federal, Provincial and Territorial Privacy Commissioners of Canada urge their respective governments to ensure Canadian law at all levels carries meaningful privacy obligations for political parties by passing legislation:
1 UK Information Commissioner’s Office, “Findings, recommendations and actions from ICO investigation into data analytics in political campaigns” (July 10, 2018).
2 House of Commons, “Addressing Digital Privacy Vulnerabilities and Potential Threats to Canada’s Democratic Electoral Process - Report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics” (June 2018).
3 Government of Canada, “Empowering political parties to better protect Canadians’ privacy“ (April 2018). The Quebec government tabled Bill 188, which would require the Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec to examine and evaluate the privacy practices of provincial political parties and to report back to the National Assembly by October 1, 2019. However, the Bill died on the Order Paper when the provincial election was called.
4 Paul Thomas, A Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct for Political Parties as a Potential Tool to Strengthen Electoral Democracy in Canada (December 2014).
5 Ekos Research Associates, “Public opinion survey – Canadians and Privacy” (March 2009).
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