New Voting Act Violates Privacy of Citizens
In late March, the BC government tabled an amended Act in the Legislature which would allow Elections BC to hand over to political parties the names and addresses of all those who actually cast a vote in a provincial election.
This change came at the request of four political parties, Liberals, NDP, Greens and Conservatives, all of whom claim that it will help them increase voter turnout on voting day. However, Elizabeth Denham, the provincial Information and Privacy Commissioner, has issued a statement disagreeing with the proposed Act and charging that parties could use it as a licence to mine data, micro-target voters, share data with other organizations, collect non-consensual information, as well as for other uses that intrude on the personal privacy of citizens.
In a number of ways, the proposed Act will make it easier for political parties and other organizations to determine (using database cross-checking and other tools), not only whether someone has actually voted, but how they voted.
Dermod Travis of Integrity BC (www.integritybc.ca) cites an example from Vancouver’s last municipal election where employees of a local financial corporation received a memo from the owner calling on them to vote for one of the municipal parties. As Travis points out, in future elections under this new legislation, the owner, armed with other database information, would find it easier to determine whether individual employees obeyed such a request.
Political parties are private organizations. Why should government be handing over the personal voting information of citizens to them? It is unseemly that, neither the ruling Liberals, nor the opposition NDP or Greens seemed to have raised even a peep of opposition.
We live in times when the privacy rights of citizens are being seriously eroded by governments and globalized corporations, the federal government’s Bill C-51 legislation being one of the most recent and egregious examples. The end result is a repressive, intrusive state and a highly manipulated electoral process in which the will of private political parties and their backers trumps the public will.
In today’s complicated world, we need the expansion of democracy, not its diminishment. And stronger privacy rights – not weaker ones.
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, BC. He can be reached at: email@example.com