Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2018/ Elections Ontario Betrays Personal Information

Elections Ontario Betrays Personal Information

I am still angry that the Green Party of Ontario (and, as I have learned, all other political parties) obtained my home address and used it to send me targeted advertising. However, I am also angry at Elections Ontario (and by extension Elections Canada) as well.

Here's the story: I made an angry phone call to the Green Party of Ontario and demanded to know how they obtained my home address. At first they claimed that I must have revealed this information when signing one of their petitions. (Note to self: in the future, never sign a Green Party petition.) When I pushed back on this, they eventually revealed the real source: the Register of Electors.

Here's the thing: I should not be on the Register of Electors provincially, because I did not reside at this address during the last provincial election. So obviously Elections Canada shares this register of electors with Elections Ontario, and Elections Ontario then releases this information to political parties and candidates. This is supposed to be used for "political purposes only," which apparently means they can correlate this data with whatever other data they can vacuum up so they can psychologically profile voters.

I called Elections Ontario to confirm this. They told me that if I did not want to have my data released to political parties the only thing I could do is to take myself off the Register of Electors after each and every election. I also have to make sure that I do not check the tickybox allowing my tax information to populate the register of electors. Wheeeee.

On the phone I was led to believe that there was no way that I could remain on the list of electors but have myself exempt from having that information revealed to political parties. The link above contradicts that; it says that the Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario is allowed to redact names, but only when it would endanger the life, health or security of the elector. I can make a reasonable argument that being psychologically profiled and individually targetted is an attack on my personal security, but I am unlikely to win that argument because nobody believes that psychological profiling is actually a serious threat.

I would argue that this ability to redact information from the list of electors is completely insufficient. The intention of the exception is for things like abuse victims hiding from their spouses. Are such people aware that their lives are being jeopardized when they vote? I would expect that those who are aware would refrain from voting, which robs them of their democratic rights. But I expect many more will not be aware of the danger these disclosures place them in, and will not be aware that they have the option of begging the Chief Electoral Officer to respect the privacy of their home addresses.

I have sent a complaint to Elections Ontario but I am sure it will go nowhere. I will probably get some form response about Elections Ontario caring very very much about personal privacy and making very very sure that this data is not misused (even though it was clearly misused during the 2011 federal election in the so-called "robocall" scandal, with negligible consequences for the Conservative party that allowed the misuse of information to happen).

None of this lets the Green Party off the hook. They are still being unethical by correlating data I am releasing by force of law to information they have collected by other means. Just because everybody else does it does not mean that it is okay for the Green Party to do so as well.

However, in addition to being furious with the Green Party I am furious with Elections Ontario as well. The reason I am on the Register of Electors is so that I can cast a ballot and exercise my voting privileges. The use of that data should be limited to that purpose. It should not be permitted to use this data for ANY other purpose, and disclosing this data to political parties and candidates is a distinct purpose that I do NOT consent to. Furthermore there is no straightforward way for me to opt out of this disclosure. This is completely unacceptable. It is a serious problem.

I am not going to be able to change this situation. I am not going to win this fight just as I am not going to win the fight against commercial entities harvesting and correlating my data. But it is important that we not normalize this surveillance. Every time organizations pull these stunts we should protest.