Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy Guardians Call for Privacy Regulation and Oversight of Political Parties

September 17, 2018

Regina, SK – In a joint resolution, Canada’s Information and Privacy Ombudspersons and Commissioners have called on governments to pass legislation requiring political parties to comply with globally recognized privacy principles, to provide Canadians with access to the personal information they hold about them, and to provide for independent oversight to verify and enforce privacy compliance.

Recent events have illuminated how political parties collect and use personal information to target individuals in specific and unique ways for political gain. Digital tools amass extensive amounts of personal information from diverse sources, frequently without the knowledge or consent of the individual.  These increasingly sophisticated big data practices raise new privacy and ethical concerns and the need for greater transparency is evident.

“Political parties collect and analyze vast amounts of personal information on voters. However, Albertans have limited recourse when they have concerns about how political parties have handled their personal information. Albertans also have no explicit right to request access to the personal information that political parties gather about them. Privacy rights are about transparency and control. Albertans should have these rights when interacting with political parties.”

– Jill Clayton, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta

“Recent investigations in various countries have revealed that political parties are gathering significant amounts of personal information on voters as they adopt new targeting techniques. Information about our political views is highly sensitive and it’s clearly unacceptable that federal and provincial political parties are not subject to privacy laws. The federal government’s response to public concern about how personal information is being used in the political process – Bill C-76 – adds nothing of substance in terms of privacy protection. It’s time to act to better protect the rights of Canadians.”

– Daniel Therrien, Privacy Commissioner of Canada

“Political parties access and use sensitive personal information of nearly all Canadians, but only in British Columbia are they subject to privacy legislation. These standards should be applied across the country so all Canadians have the same privacy protections.”

– Michael McEvoy, Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia