TORONTO — Ontario’s privacy commissioner is seeking legislative changes that would give his office oversight of political parties.
Brian Beamish said Thursday that recent events have shed light on how political parties collect and use personal information to target people for political gain, often without those people’s knowledge or consent.
The personal information held by political parties can also be vulnerable to cybersecurity threats and privacy breaches, but people affected by those breaches currently have no recourse, he said.
Beamish said subjecting political parties to privacy laws would help address the ethical and security risks associated with how they collect and use personal information.
“Updating our access and privacy laws is long overdue and necessary if they are to remain relevant and in line with the information age,” he said in a statement.
The move comes after Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford came under fire during the Ontario election campaign over allegations his candidates might have used stolen data to further their cause.
One Tory candidate resigned shortly after his former employer issued a statement about what it called an “internal theft of customer data” affecting 60,000 people.
The Liberals and NDP have said questions remain about the extent of the alleged data theft and how the information may have been used, but Ford maintains he dealt with the issue immediately.
Police in York Region are looking into a data breach from the 407 Express Toll Route, the private highway that runs north of Toronto.
Asked if Ford would support the change sought by the privacy commissioner, a spokesman said only that the premier-designate is focused on his transition to power and reviewing government objectives.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she shares the commissioner’s concerns about the use of personal data for political gain, “especially when it comes to the questions we all still have about the stolen personal data of 407 ETR drivers.”
She said New Democrats also support Beamish’s call for “duty to document” legislation, which would require public entities in Ontario to document matters related to their deliberations, actions and decisions.
The Canadian Press