What Political Parties Know about You

By Bennett, Colin J. | Policy Options, February 2013 | Go to article overview

What Political Parties Know about You


Bennett, Colin J., Policy Options


Canadian political parties are gathering more and more data on voters all the time. It's time we regulated what data they glean, and what they can do with it.

Les partis politiques accumulent un nombre grandissant de données sur les électeurs canadiens. Il est temps de réglementer la cueillette de ces données et l'utilisation qui en est faite.

The allegations of vote suppression through the practice of robo-calling using automatic dialing and announcing devices during the last Canadian federal election campaign has raised troubling questions about the impact of technology on the way political parties conduct modern campaigns. Both the RCMP and Elections Canada are conducting investigations, and Parliament has resounded with partisan denunciations and denials of wrong-doing. But the rise of robo-calling is merely the tip of the data revolution that is raising deeper questions about what information our political parties actually know about voters, how they collect it, and what they do with it.

The recent US election cycle revealed the extent and sophistication of personal data mining and profiling by political campaigns as never before. The modern political consultant's arsenal includes smartphone applications for political canvassers. It boasts integrated platforms such as NationBuilder or Google's Political Campaign Toolkit that provide campaign Web sites, e-mail services, "social customer relationship management," and fundraising software. Targeted e-mail and texting campaigns match IP addresses with other data sets showing party affiliation, donation history, and socio-economic characteristics.

Campaigns now extensively use both "robo-calling" and "robo-texting." And no political strategy is complete without the use of social media to plan campaigns, target likely voters and donors, and measure the impact of policies and advertising on engagement.

Some of these data are gathered from the conscious activities of individuals. Others are gleaned surreptitiously from the digital trails that people leave through their various online activities. Reports suggest that there were no fewer than 76 different tracking programs on barackobama.com. The capture of personal data by political parties is no longer selfgenerated, obvious or consensual.

Surveillance during Canadian elections has been less extensive and intrusive - so far. Canadian parties and candidates have a minute fraction of the resources that are available to their American counterparts to fund the same degree of data collection. Nor do they have the same ease of opportunity to gather it. In the US, parties play a central role in registering voters for both primary and general elections.

But Canadian political consultants are always drawing lessons from south of the border, and it is not unusual for the latest campaign techniques to filter north. Furthermore, these new integrated campaign technologies can be easy to use, and cost far less than the more traditional and labour-intensive methods of acquiring information by going door-to-door.

The 2011 robo-call scandal was not the first time that privacy issues involving Canadian political parties have surfaced. A string of incidents over the last decade raises troubling, if subtly different, issues about the ways that parties and politicians use personal data for political purposes.

In 2006, Conservative Party MP Cheryl Gallant sent birthday cards to her constituents using data from passport applications, an incident that was later investigated by the Office of the Ethics Commissioner. The same year, the RCMP found lists of voter names and addresses in the office of a Toronto cell of the Tamil Tigers, a group classified as a terrorist organization. In October 2007, the Prime Minister's Office sent Rosh Hashanah cards to supporters with Jewish sounding names, many of whom were unsettled and leftwondering how such a list could be compiled.

During the 2011 election, a Conservative candidate from Winnipeg mistakenly sent a misdirected e-mail containing the names, address, phone numbers and e-mails of 6,000 of her constituents to a local environmental activist during the 2011 federal election. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

What Political Parties Know about You
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.