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Canadians' Privacy ExpectationsDiscussion Paper 3: The Protection of Electors' Personal Information in the Federal Electoral Context

Canadians are concerned about protecting their privacy. Surveys from 2012 to 2018 indicate that 88% to 92% of Canadians are concerned, with those being "extremely concerned" rising from 25% in 2012 to 37% in 2016 and 2018.4 But what do Canadians expect of their political parties when parties collect their personal information and use it to communicate with them?

In 2013, following the use of deceptive communication practices during the 2011 federal election, 14% of Canadian electors agreed that it was important that political parties be able to collect personal information on them, compared to 69% who disagreed. When presented with a trade-off between preserving electors' privacy and the need for political parties to communicate with electors, 68% opted for the privacy of electors (53% saying it should always prevail), compared to 15% who opted for the need to communicate (9% saying it should always prevail).5

In 2017, 65% of Canadian social media users reported being uncomfortable with political parties accessing their personal information.6 Two thirds of Ontarians surveyed in 2018 did not think that parties should be allowed to use their social media data to assist with targeting them with communications. A majority (87%) felt that parties should only access publicly available information such as census data or elector lists.7

Recent surveys indicate that Canadians support the idea that parties should be subject to privacy rules. In 2018, 72% of Canadians said they supported changing the law so that parties are subject to the same privacy rules as private companies.8

In sum, Canadians are concerned about their privacy and tend to value the protection of their personal information more than the rights of parties to communicate with them. However, not all Canadians are opposed to parties collecting some information for the purposes of communicating with electors.

Footnotes

Footnote 4 Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, 201819 Survey of Canadians on Privacy. March 2019. https://www.priv.gc.ca/en/opc-actions-and-decisions/research/explore-privacy-research/2019/por_2019_ca/

Footnote 5 Elections Canada. Survey of Electors on Communications with Electors. March 2013. https://www.elections.ca/res/cons/sece/sece_e.pdf

Footnote 6 Gruzd, Anatoliy, Jenna Jacobson, Philip Mai, and Elizabeth Dubois. "Social Media Privacy in Canada." Ryerson University Social Media Lab (2018): 9. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3195503

Footnote 7 Esselment, Anna Lennox. "Perceptions of Parties in an Era of Big Data and Social Media: Data, Privacy, and the Ontario 2018 Election." University of Waterloo, 2019.

Footnote 8 Henry, Victoria. Open Media. June 12, 2018. https://openmedia.org/en/72-people-canada-support-stronger-privacy-rules-political-parties/