The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia recently published some important guidance. The title of the document is pretty simple but it says a lot: “Guidance Document: Political Campaign Activity.” It builds on a code of practice they co-developed with Elections B.C.
British Columbia is quite a bit ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to recognizing and dealing with the fact that political parties broker in tons of personal information. Their private sector law specifically applies to political parties and, now with this guidance, there are clear rules and expectations about how political parties in that province must handle the personal information they collect and use.
Kudos to that office and Commissioner Michael McEvoy for staying on top of this issue.
The big question is why isn’t the rest of the country adequately addressing the issue? The new Quebec law passed just last year did not address political parties. And, the newly introduced Bill C-27 at the federal level likely to replace the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act does not tackle the issue either.
If you ask me, it’s a little disheartening that politicians will not hold themselves accountable by law for how they handle personal information. If privacy laws are required for the entire public and private sectors, how does it make sense for political activity to get a free pass?
As the guidance from British Columbia makes clear, privacy is at the heart of democracy. So is the political process. I believe the two can coexist and that other jurisdictions should follow British Columbia’s lead and strike a better balance between protecting personal information and empowering the political process. What do you think?
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