It’s time to make Canadian politicians ask for consent to use the email addresses of voters who communicate with them, argue a newspaper and a privacy lawyer

Time to rein in political parties on privacy?
Do you trust political parties? 
 
To some the question is moot, or perhaps an oxymoron. Yet we’ve allowed Canadian pols an out when it comes to privacy laws. As an editorial in today’s Halifax Chronicle Herald points out, a decision by the office of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to use email addresses gleaned from an online petition sent to him for a mass mailing violates the spirit of federal privacy legislation. However, the law doesn’t cover political parties.
 
That should end, argues the newspaper, as does Halifax privacy lawyer David Fraser in this blog.
 
 
 
(Privacy graphic from Shutterstock)
 
Federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddard has looked into this, but apparently has no lever to get involved. Legislation that forces the private sector to get consent for the use of an email address doesn’t apply to a federal political party.
 
Perhaps the out is premised on the idea that while political parties collect lots of voter data they don’t advertise, but are conduits for discussions on issues of importance to constituents. It’s an interesting argument. Why shouldn’t a politician take advantage of communications to broadcast a message to large numbers of voters? Doesn’t democracy gain?
 
Democracy isn’t the issue, in my opinion. Consent is the issue. A voter — even one who “signs” a mass petition — is entitled to be asked about what use a politician can make with personal information.
 
I look forward to hearing your opinion.
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