Privacy watchdog closes file on complaint against federal political parties

Federal privacy watchdog Daniel Therrien says he cannot charge political parties subject to a data privacy complaint because political parties are excluded from data privacy requirements. Therrien says the law should change.

OTTAWA — The federal privacy watchdog has closed the file on a complaint about the data-harvesting practices of three national political parties.

Privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien says federal privacy law does not apply to the activities in question because they are not commercial in nature.

Complainant Gary Dickson had argued the Liberal, Conservative and New Democratic parties were violating the private-sector privacy law by not properly informing Canadians how they collect, use and disclose their personal information.

He said the parties use such information to conduct political advertising, including “micro-targeted” ads based on detailed profiles of individuals.

Dickson, a former Saskatchewan information and privacy commissioner, was supported in his complaint by the Centre for Digital Rights, established by businessman and philanthropist Jim Balsillie.

Therrien says while the law should govern political parties to better protect privacy and democratic rights, he must apply the statute as it stands today.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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