Editorial: Mining our information

That earnest political canvasser who knocks on your door could be collecting more than your opinions. He or she might be guessing at your gender, ethnicity or religion — and reporting back to the party.

Information and privacy commissioner Michael McEvoy says in a new report that political parties in B.C. are collecting too much information from voters without their consent.

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The main culprit is not the canvasser, but social media, where personal information is collected and shared in ways that voters aren’t aware of.

All three main parties gave email addresses or donor lists to Facebook, which correlated them with profiles and then sent out targeted ads. The social media company also used its “lookalike” tool to pick out potential party supporters by combing their posts and other interactions.

Data on voters are like gold to political parties and their strategists, and social media have proven to be the motherlode. The temptation is strong to use that information without getting explicit consent, or in ways that are not obvious to ordinary people.

McEvoy wants B.C.’s parties to change their ways, and it’s in their interest — as well as ours — to do so.

Trust is becoming a rare commodity in our political life. The knowledge that parties are dissecting our personal information in dark backrooms chips away at what little trust remains.

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