Politics

Privacy watchdogs call for more oversight over political parties

Privacy watchdogs from across the country are collectively calling on federal and provincial governments to force political parties to disclose any personal information they have collected, and to allow for independent oversight to ensure they are respecting the privacy of the electorate.

Commissioners concerned about personal data collected for political gain

Privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien responds to a question during a press conference after tabling his latest annual report, Tuesday September 27, 2016 in Ottawa. Privacy watchdogs from across the country are collectively calling on federal and provincial governments to force political parties to disclose any personal information they have collected and allow for independent oversight to ensure they are respecting the privacy of the electorate. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Privacy watchdogs from across the country are collectively calling on federal and provincial governments to force political parties to disclose any personal information they have collected, and to allow for independent oversight to ensure they are respecting the privacy of the electorate.

In a joint resolution published today, Canada's information and privacy ombudsmen and commissioners say recent events have revealed some of the ways in which political parties use digital tools to collect the personal information of individuals — often without their knowledge or consent — to target them for political gain.

The commissioners say these increasingly sophisticated big-data practices raise new privacy and ethical concerns and that greater transparency is needed.

In March, federal Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien launched an investigation into the alleged unauthorized use of some 50 million Facebook profiles — possibly including those of Canadians — by Cambridge Analytica, a firm accused of helping crunch data for Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

Ottawa has proposed some changes involving privacy as part of a bill aimed at overhauling federal election laws, but Therrien said those measures add "nothing of substance in terms of privacy protection."

He said more action is needed to better protect the rights of Canadians.

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