Mark Goldberg


www.mhgoldberg.com





Fox Group Dispatch

Do as I say, not as I do

Once again, politicians have decided not to hold themselves to the same standards that are imposed on the rest of us.

The Toronto Star reports that the government has decided to reject an all-party recommendation that Canada’s privacy laws be extended to apply to political activities.

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (“ETHI”) had released a report (“Addressing Digital Privacy Vulnerabilites and Potential Threats to Canada’s Democratic Electoral Process”) [pdf, 7.3MB] in mid-June with 8 recommendations, including: “That the Government of Canada take measures to ensure that privacy legislation applies to political activities in Canada either by amending existing legislation or by enacting new legislation.”

The report noted comments made to the Committee by Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, who observed:

So while I am currently investigating commercial organizations such as Facebook and Aggregate IQ, I am unable to investigate how political parties use the personal information they may receive from corporate actors.

In my view, this is a significant gap.

This is hardly the first time that politicians chose to exempt themselves from legislation that applies to the rest of us. Four years ago, I noted that Parliamentarians created an explicit carve out from rules applying to electronic communications.

As the ETHI report noted, “Canadians would have greater confidence if they knew that their political parties were not exempt from privacy legislation and that they have legal responsibilities similar to those imposed on public and private organizations under the Privacy Act and PIPEDA.”

If the rules are too onerous for politicians to apply to themselves, how are we to believe they are appropriate for the rest of us? Conversely, if the regulations are necessary, then why don’t they apply to all?

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