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Canada’s Political Parties Fail to Meet Basic Privacy Expectations

OpenMedia calls on parties to better protect personal information and empower citizens in democratic processes

August 7, 2019  — Internet advocacy group OpenMedia has assessed the privacy policies of Canada’s political parties, and found that not a single one is meeting voters’ basic expectations of privacy, as set out by the Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC). The failure of political parties to prioritize the privacy of voters’ most sensitive personal information is a fundamental blow to the democratic process. 

To prepare for this fall’s federal election, the CEO and OPC issued a set of guidelines for what parties’ privacy policies should contain to comply with Bill C-76, the recently-passed Elections Modernization Act. OpenMedia has reviewed the parties’ new privacy policies against these key recommendations, and the analysis released today found that not a single party has even come close to meeting these basic best practices. 

“It’s clear that Canada’s political parties do not take our privacy seriously, and we simply can’t trust them to regulate themselves. The low standards they've set for their treatment of our data just won't cut it,” said OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe. “In the wake of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, the constant talk of misinformation, and the growing number of severe data breaches affecting people in Canada, you would hope our political parties would see the value in stepping up to embrace transparency and data protection. Instead, what we’ve been left with is a brutally hypocritical double standard, where politicians see themselves as above the law, and our most sensitive personal data as nothing more than election fuel. Enough is enough. We are calling on Canada’s party leaders to commit to reforming our privacy laws to ensure political parties are held accountable, as part of their 2019 election platforms.”

OpenMedia’s analysis was conducted using the parties privacy policies as of July 2, following the June 30 deadline for all parties to comply with Bill C-76. 

For some guidelines, many parties do not meet the requirements at all – such as informing individuals if they have been subject to a data breach. In other cases, only a portion of a guideline may have been addressed. An example of this is the guideline to ‘allow individuals to access and correct your personal information.’ While individuals are all allowed to correct their information, no parties actually allow users to access their information – therefore rendering any potential corrections impossible, as users do not know what information they need to correct.

Unfortunately, despite dozens of privacy experts calling for stronger privacy protections in the recently-passed Elections Modernization Act (Bill C-76), the government voted down amendments that would have better protected the data of people in Canada. The only notable requirement included in the bill was for federal parties to develop and post a privacy policy on their websites – something most, if not all, already had.

Over 12,000 people have signed on to OpenMedia’s campaign calling for stronger privacy rules for Canada’s political parties at https://act.openmedia.org/PoliticalData, and have sent letters to the party leaders at  https://act.openmedia.org/ElectionLetters.

OpenMedia’s full analysis of the parties’ privacy policies is available at:

https://bit.ly/PoliticalPartiesPolicyA

For a high-resolution copy of OpenMedia’s party privacy policy scorecard, see:

https://act.openmedia.org/sites/default/files/Scorecard.png

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.

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