While it’s undoubtedly creepy to have as yet-unidentified campaign workers combing over the Facebook profiles of 19-year-old university students, this week’s imbroglio over screening of audience members at Conservative rallies raises another question: is it legal?
The Conservative campaign offered an apology for bouncing two University of Western Ontario students from a rally in London, Ont. Before they were frogmarched out, a campaign worker told them he’d seen a picture one of the women had posted on her Facebook page of herself and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, according to one report.
The students had to register to attend the rally, suggesting that someone had searched their names on the Internet in advance.
Had a bank or credit card company pulled a similar stunt with students’ registration details, it could be found in violation of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which governs how third parties may use other people’s personal information.
But PIPEDA inexplicably does not apply to political parties because they are not commercial endeavours. The party is also not covered by privacy law that applies to government departments and agencies.
“If they were subject to the privacy laws, this would be illegal, but because it falls out of those, it’s not,” said David Fraser, a Halifax lawyer who specializes in privacy law.
“But it raises a second question: If business aren’t allowed to do this sort of stuff, should political parties?”