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News release

Privacy Commissioner, Chief Electoral Officer of Canada issue guidance to help political parties protect the personal information of Canadians

GATINEAU, QC, April 1, 2019 – Political parties are encouraged to take steps to better protect the personal information of Canadians ahead of the next federal election in guidance jointly released by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Chief Electoral Officer.

“Information about our political views is extremely sensitive and worthy of strong privacy protections,” Commissioner Daniel Therrien says. “We know that political parties collect vast amounts of data about voters. Canadians expect and deserve to have their privacy rights respected as they exercise their democratic rights.”

“Canadians are increasingly mindful of how they share and protect their personal information,” adds Stéphane Perrault, Chief Electoral Officer. “Political parties that receive electors’ information from Elections Canada have a responsibility to adopt robust privacy policies to protect it. Canadians’ confidence in how political parties treat their personal information is essential to continued trust in electoral democracy.”

The guidance outlines the legal obligations political parties are required to follow in the wake of recent changes to the Canada Elections Act.  

Principally, these changes, in force on April 1, 2019, require federal political parties to develop specific privacy policies, submit them to Elections Canada and publish them online. Parties will have until July 1, 2019 to comply with the requirement. The guidance offers advice on the type of information that should be provided to Canadians in order to comply with the new law.

While political parties must include certain content in their privacy policies, the legislative amendments do not require these policies to comply with internationally recognized privacy standards. Nor is respect for these policies supervised by an independent oversight body such as the Privacy Commissioner’s office.

Although not a legal requirement, the guidance encourages political parties to adhere to principles normally found in privacy laws such as consent, access, and protecting personal information through adequate safeguards.

Among other measures, political parties should:

  • Be transparent by clearly explaining what personal information will be used for, whether it will be shared with others and for what purpose.
  • Obtain meaningful consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information and only use the information for purposes individuals have consented to. For example, parties should not assume consent to add personal information collected through social media to party databases simply when people interact with a party by liking a post on social media.
  • Provide individuals with access to their information and the opportunity to correct it.
  • Keep personal information only as long as necessary to satisfy the purposes for which it was collected, and then destroy the information securely. For example, information collected for a specific petition or cause should not be reused for general political messaging.

The guidance was informed by a report published by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia following an investigation into how political parties in the province manage personal information.

Commissioner Therrien encouraged federal political parties to consider the recommendations in the B.C. investigation report issued in February and to follow the new federal guidance.

“Good privacy practices by political parties will greatly enhance transparency and public trust in the democratic process,” Commissioner Therrien says.

Commissioner Therrien has called for political parties to be subject to legislation that creates obligations based on internationally recognized privacy principles and for an independent third party with authority to verify compliance.

Related documents

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For more information, please contact:

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Elections Canada Media Relations
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