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.
‘There needs to be some oversight’
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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