A Vote for Privacy in Politics

Sep 17 2018

Political parties hold power in government. They also hold sensitive personal information about individuals. For privacy and democracy, it can be a troubling mix.

Data collected about individuals is on the rise, spurred on by advancements in computing and technology. Sophisticated analysis techniques, often used without the knowledge or consent of individuals, raise new privacy and ethical concerns. Given the influence of these practices on elections, it’s time to take a closer look.

Unfortunately, as the pool of personally identifiable data about citizens’ behaviour and attitudes expands, Ontario’s access and privacy laws are floundering in the shallow end. Indeed, expanding the oversight of our office to include political parties was one of my recommendations in the IPC’s most recent annual report.

To remain relevant in today’s information tsunami, access and privacy laws need to be updated. This is not a situation unique to Ontario. Last week, I met with privacy protection authorities from across Canada in Regina, Saskatchewan. Together, we passed a resolution calling on governments of all stripes to pass legislation requiring political parties to comply with recognized privacy principles.

A law of this type would provide all Canadians with the same privacy protections and secure their right to request access to information political parties have about them. For more details, read the full joint resolution Securing Trust and Privacy in Canada’s Electoral Process.

 

Brian Beamish
Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario