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New poll shows majority of Canadians want stronger privacy standards for political parties

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, people in Canada overwhelmingly support increased privacy requirements for political parties

June 13, 2018— According to an Innovative Research Group poll released today, people in Canada overwhelmingly support greater privacy standards for political parties, which are currently not subject to any federal privacy legislation. Only 3% of those polled support the status quo policy of fewer privacy requirements for political parties.

The law that governs the privacy practices of businesses in Canada (PIPEDA), does not currently apply to political parties. Bill C-76, the government’s current proposal to amend our elections laws, only proposes one change to this; requiring that parties publish a privacy policy. C-76 does not put any limitations or requirements for how individuals’ data is handled once collected, and would not prevent a Cambridge Analytica type scandal from happening in Canada.

“This poll shows that people in Canada do not trust political parties to do the right thing without regulation or enforcement,” said OpenMedia’s Digital Rights Campaigner Victoria Henry. “Political parties have personal information about us all. The collection, storage and use of that information should be carefully regulated and protected.”

Henry continued: “Parliamentarians have tried to dismiss privacy concerns by suggesting that increased responsibility for data collection and use will harm democracy, but today’s poll results show the lack of faith in political parties is a much greater threat. Of course political parties don’t want to close the loopholes they’re exploiting to target and influence us. But as our elected representatives, it’s the job of MPs to act on behalf of their constituents – and this is something that people in Canada are clearly demanding to restore our faith in our democratic institutions, and protect our individual privacy.”

The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has called for stronger privacy laws in Canada to regulate political parties, consistent with international privacy standards and principles, and including obligations to comply and independent oversight.

Key findings from the polling include:

  • A large majority – 72% – supported changing the law so that political parties follow the same privacy rules as private companies.

  • Only 3% of those polled supported the status quo policy of fewer restrictions for political parties.

  • Support for extending PIPEDA to political parties has broad support across partisans from all parties.

  • 65% of respondents are concerned about the possibility of private companies collecting personal information about Canadians and using it in an attempt to influence the next election;

    • Of those that followed the issue closely, 80% were concerned.

The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) is currently studying Bill C-76. The bill contains measures to prevent foreign interference with the electoral process. Last week OpenMedia testified before PROC to speak to the needs for increased privacy protections for individuals, and included statistics from today’s polling data in its testimony.

The full results of the poll can be found here.

The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal makes clear the damage that can be done when personal information is not protected. Personal data from millions of Facebook profiles, including 600,000 Canadians, was shared without any consent or disclosure. Cambridge Analytica claimed this data gave them the capability to influence behaviour and shape elections. It is clear that the personal data of people in Canada is under threat, and now it’s time for the government to step in and take action.

Over 10,000 people have already called for increased privacy protections in Canada at https://act.openmedia.org/pipeda.

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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