I’ve been concerned about the privacy implications of party databases for some time now: political parties are exempt from privacy legislation like PIPEDA, and as far as I’m aware there are no real limits on what data they can collect on voters and how it can be used. As Susan Delacourt notes on iPolitics,
because political parties are neither entirely private nor public institutions, they fall into a grey area when it comes to privacy protection — and those databases, as the outgoing Chief Electoral Officer put it, are operating in the “Wild West” of privacy laws.
The lack of a firewall between party and government bothers me even more: contacting your MP, which is something every engaged citizen ought to do, is a good way to get your details entered into a party database, and during my ministerial correspondence years I handled a number of letters forwarded by the Harper PMO to our department for a response that were tagged with the Conservatives’ party database, CIMS.
But now it looks like party databases are finally getting some overdue scrutiny, with a House of Commons committee set to explore whether there should be rules on how parties collect and use data.
It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it. At a minimum, I’d like it if I had the right to see exactly what data the political parties keep on me. That ought to go some way toward keeping the parties in line.