A strong majority of Canadians are concerned about how political parties use the personal information they collect, according to a new Nanos Research survey for The Globe and Mail.
The findings come as the Liberal government resists repeated calls by a parliamentary committee and the federal Privacy Commissioner for new legislation that would require political parties to comply with existing privacy laws.
Conservative MP Bob Zimmer, the chair of the House of Commons committee on Access to Information, privacy and ethics, recently expressed frustration as he released a report raising concerns about privacy and social-media companies that Canadians do not appear to be engaged on such issues. However, the poll results suggest that may not be the case.
The survey found a majority of Canadians said they are concerned (36 per cent) or somewhat concerned (37 per cent) about how political parties use the personal information on voters they collect.
The unease is even stronger when it comes to how Canadians view the safety of their personal information on Facebook and other social-media platforms, with more than eight in 10 respondents saying they are either concerned (49 per cent) or somewhat concerned (34 per cent). Only 10 per cent said they were somewhat unconcerned and 6 per cent said they were unconcerned.
“This is definitely on the radar and the concern basically cuts across gender and age,” pollster Nik Nanos said. “It doesn’t really make any difference whether you’re a younger Canadian, a millennial or a retired Canadian. You have a significant dose of concern related to your privacy.”
The random phone and online survey of 1,000 Canadians was conducted between Nov. 30 and Dec. 5. A survey of that size has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
As for the Liberal government’s decision not to subject political parties to privacy laws, Mr. Nanos said that could hurt the Liberal Party’s support if the opposition parties do more to highlight the issue.
“I would hazard a guess that, for many Canadians, they’d probably be surprised to learn that there are different rules depending on whether you’re a political party or not a political party in terms of the protection of personal information,” he said.
It has been a rough year for large social-media companies such as Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., Facebook and Twitter. The Financial Times dubbed “techlash” as the one word that best encapsulates 2018.
Facebook was dogged by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw a British consulting firm access the Facebook data of 87 million customers for use in unauthorized ways in political campaigns around the world.
Social-media companies are also under scrutiny for how their platforms can be used to spread fake news and polarize election campaigns.
After a detailed study, the House of Commons ethics committee issued a report in December calling on the federal government to impose new regulations on social-media companies to prevent hate speech and curb the spread of misinformation.
In response to the committee’s findings, Facebook Canada’s head of public policy, Kevin Chan, said in a statement that the company is taking “significant steps” to improve safety and security on the platform in preparation for the next federal election in October, 2019.
The company says these measures will include third-party fact-checking and helping political parties safeguard their accounts.
“We are taking our responsibility in these areas very seriously and are already working hard to tackle many of these challenges,” Mr. Chan said.