Prov­ince mulls new pri­vacy rules

Watch­dog sug­gests chang­ing how po­lit­i­cal par­ties han­dle your data

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA GRANEY

Al­ber­tans lose all rights to their own in­for­ma­tion once they pro­vide it to po­lit­i­cal par­ties, but the gov­ern­ment is mulling over a rec­om­men­da­tion from the pri­vacy com­mis­sioner that could change all that.

As the rules stand, Al­berta’s Per­sonal In­for­ma­tion Pro­tec­tion Act ex­pressly ex­cludes po­lit­i­cal par­ties from pri­vacy law. There’s noth­ing to stop your de­tails from be­ing passed along to other par­ties, po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns or in­ter­est groups if you sign a pe­ti­tion launched by a po­lit­i­cal party or add your name and con­tact de­tails to a mail­ing list.

Not only are you pow­er­less to stop your per­sonal in­for­ma­tion from be­ing shared by po­lit­i­cal par­ties, you have no le­gal rights to find out what in­for­ma­tion they have about you on their books or what they’re do­ing with it — or whether it was on a stolen party lap­top, as hap­pened re­cently with the UCP.

“You would have a right to go to a pri­vate-sec­tor com­pany and say, ‘What do you have about me, and where did you get it and stop us­ing it and stop dis­clos­ing it or, more im­por­tantly, safe­guard it, and tell me if there is a breach.’ But none of that ap­plies (with po­lit­i­cal par­ties),” Al­berta pri­vacy com­mis­sioner Jill Clay­ton told Post­media in a re­cent in­ter­view.

Clay­ton re­cently joined her col­leagues from across the coun­try to sign a res­o­lu­tion urg­ing Canada’s pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments to bet­ter pro­tect per­sonal in­for­ma­tion held by po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

Ser­vice Al­berta spokesper­son An­nalise Kling­beil told Post­media in an email the gov­ern­ment is re­view­ing Clay­ton’s re­quest and will “care­fully con­sider” the pro­posal to amend Al­berta’s Per­sonal In­for­ma­tion Pro­tec­tion Act.

Clay­ton in­sists the gov­ern­ment needs to take the is­sue se­ri­ously. Im­ple­ment­ing even some ba­sic re­quire­ments for po­lit­i­cal par­ties would be a great first step, she said.

“(Par­ties) have mas­sive data­bases of ex­tremely sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion about in­di­vid­u­als,” she said.

“If you want to know what’s been col­lected about you and how it’s be­ing used and who it might have been dis­closed to, and frankly, if it’s be­ing prop­erly safe­guarded … there’s no one re­ally to go to.”

Clay­ton finds the lack of ac­tion on the file frus­trat­ing and laments how hard it is to con­vince peo­ple to care about pri­vacy leg­is­la­tion — un­til they get a let­ter say­ing their in­for­ma­tion was hacked.

“We are re­ally wor­ried that there needs to be some reg­u­la­tion, trans­parency around this and there needs to be some over­sight. But I’m not see­ing us on the verge of any change,” Clay­ton said.

“In­for­ma­tion can be very pow­er­ful de­pend­ing on how you use it to tar­get and mar­ket and pro­mote and sway and bend.”

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