NDP leader John Horgan speaks to a rally at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver during the May 2017 election campaign. (Black Press files)

B.C. political parties profiling with voters’ personal information

Consent needed for social media ‘scraping,’ privacy commissioner says

Profiling and personal data collection by B.C. political parties should be better regulated, B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy says.

McEvoy released a report Wednesday that finds the NDP, B.C. Liberals and B.C. Green party meeting the technical requirements for information collected by petitions, door-knocking and social media campaigning. But he makes 17 recommendations, including getting “express consent of the individual” for sharing email addresses with social media companies.

“Throughout the 2017 election, my office received several complaints about political parties improperly disclosing and failing to take adequate security measures to protect the personal information of voters,” McEvoy wrote.

“The complaints included instances of stolen equipment, lost canvassing lists, and retention of voter data after the election. Those complaints and the changes to the Election Act served as the basis for my office launching this investigation.”

The investigations come after international revelations of Facebook information being collected through online questionnaires, which record not only the user but also his or her “friends” as part of a profile of their tastes and preferences. This database was sold to third parties who used it to target political ads.

RELATED: B.C. company denies link to Facebook data scandal

RELATED: Federal Liberals tried Facebook project, source alleges

McEvoy is checking B.C. political parties for similar activities.

“Some of this collection of information arises from observations made and recorded about a person by a canvasser going door to door, while other examples included ‘scraping’ personal information from social media platforms and disclosing donor lists, birth dates and other data to Facebook,” McEvoy said. “To be absolutely clear, political parties may be allowed to collect and use this kind of information. However, in most circumstances, the political party would need to get the individual’s consent.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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