Saturday, April 16, 2011

Political parties can spam you as much as they want

I was contacted this week by a reporter from the Toronto Star inquiring about the legality of Members of Parliament adding constituents' names to the databases of the parties with which they are affiliated. The answer is, either intentionally or unintentionally, politicians have exempted themselves from Canada's privacy laws and Canada's anti-spam law. While it flies in the face of fair information practices, MPs and political parties are free to spam you all they want.

Email to MP lands woman in campaign database -

Brendan Kennedy

Staff Reporter

Mary Krohnert wrote her MP earlier this year to voice her concerns about changes to CRTC regulations. The act of civic engagement also appears to have signed her up to receive Conservative attack ads in her email.

The 36-year-old Oshawa resident says she had Tory campaign literature sent to her inbox this week, though she has never signed up for anything to do with the party.

When she called the Conservative party’s Ottawa headquarters to inquire, she says she was told her email address was added to a national campaign database after she wrote her MP — Conservative incumbent Colin Carrie — on a number of different issues in recent years.

“As far as I know I’ve never given consent for my email address to be shared,” said Krohnert, an actor who is studying to become an art therapist. “I was just communicating with my MP.”

Carrie refused to be interviewed for this story through his campaign manager, Judy Pati.

What apparently happened to Krohnert is perfectly legal because political parties are exempt from Canada’s privacy rules, said David Fraser, a privacy lawyer with Halifax-based McInnes Cooper.

“They can collect, use and disclose your personal information without your consent and they can use it for whatever purpose they want.”

Ryan Sparrow, a spokesman for the Conservatives, refused to comment on whether it was common practice for the party’s elected politicians to use constituents’ personal information when campaigning, saying he could not speak on behalf of MPs. He also three-times repeated a statement saying the party is “more than happy” to remove someone’s name “from any distribution list that we have” when requested.

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