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BC Politics

What the Greens Know About Me and Who Else Knows It

Provincial party keeps accurate voter database, at least according to a sample of one.

By Andrew MacLeod 8 May 2018 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

The British Columbia Green Party knows more about me than the province’s other two main parties, and it provided more detail about what it had done with the information.

I first made requests under the Personal Information Protection Act to all three parties last May after reporting on the role in the 2016 Brexit vote of AggregateIQ, a Victoria company that develops advertising to be used on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and targets messages to audiences who are likely to be receptive.

The Act gives individuals in B.C. the right to know what private sector organizations, including political parties, keep on file about them and whom they have shared it with.

The Greens had accurate information about me in the party database, including my full name, which electoral district I live in, my street address, postal code, work phone number, Twitter handle and gender. That the information is up to date makes sense considering I live in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, the constituency Green leader Andrew Weaver has won in the last two elections. They’d noted that I’m not a party member, volunteer or donor. They also knew that I’d voted in 2013 and they had my support level for the party down as “weak” in 2017.

(Whenever a canvasser for any party comes to the door I tell them I’m a reporter covering provincial politics and they should make me as a “won’t say”. A spokesperson for the Green Party said a campaign volunteer entered the “weak” support after interpreting whatever I’d said.)

I reported earlier this year about the difficulty I had getting responses from all three parties.

When I eventually got answers, the BC Liberals had the basics on file about me and said they had shared it with two companies outside the party, NRG Research Group and Campaign Support Ltd.

Mixed with some information that was correct, the NDP had various inaccurate details, including that I had previously lived in Surrey and was 90 years old. They said they had not shared the information with anyone outside the party.

The Green response, which I haven’t previously reported on, provided a list of 53 individuals who at some point would have had access to the information, including party staff members, caucus members and party officials. They included 23 volunteers, though the party identified them by just their initials so as to protect their privacy.

The party also listed nine third party organizations that had access to the data, either continuing or in the past: NationBuilder, Ecanvasser, CallHub, Westkey Graphics, Keys 360, ArtsMarketing, Coastal Ledgers, Contrast Marketing and Aristos Mail Tech.

A couple months after releasing the information, the party got in touch to say they had also shared the information in their database with AggregateIQ, the Victoria company that has been accused of illegal and unethical activity during elections in several countries. The company denies all wrongdoing.

Green Party spokesperson Stefan Jonsson said in March that AggregateIQ had built a website for the party but never finished the work it was doing creating new customer relations management software for the Greens.

The people who had hired AggregateIQ, former BC Liberals Brian Rice and Ray Larson, had since left the Green Party, Jonsson said. “There were holes in our knowledge of the details of that project because there were changes in staff.”

The U.K.’s Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, announced a year ago a formal investigation “into the use of data analytics for political purposes.” Privacy officials for Canada and British Columbia announced in April that they will work together to investigate social media giant Facebook and AggregateIQ.

The province’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner also launched an investigation in September to find out how the parties are interpreting B.C.’s privacy law and to develop guidelines so they understand what is and isn’t authorized under the Act.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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