Friday, March 16, 2012

Not Buying It Yet

Ivison's latest on the Robocon scandal:

The call that claimed to come from Elections Canada was sent out to 5,053 recipients in the 519 area code that covers Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Windsor and Sarnia.

But it was also received by 35 people in downtown Toronto, 74 in the 905 suburban belt surrounding the GTA, 14 in the 613 area code that includes Kingston and Ottawa, 22 in the 705 code area that includes Barrie, Sudbury and North Bay and one person in Thunder Bay.

The revelation that the Guelph robocall went out across Ontario may explain why there have been complaints in ridings such as Ottawa Vanier and Trinity Spadina — two ridings the Tories had no hope of winning.  People familiar with the Conservative Party’s voter information database say whoever orchestrated the Guelph call likely used the non-supporters list for the riding.

“The database makes mistakes. We try to fix the supporters side but no-one pays attention to the non supporters side — the data is not maintained,” said one source.

[...]

It’s likely the Tories will now use the information to suggest the voter suppression tactic was limited to Guelph. It seems entirely possible that people as far north as Thunder Bay received a robocall purporting to be from Elections Canada, redirecting them to vote at a mall in Guelph.

For this explanation to work, it would mean that the database CIMS contained the correct phone-number of the non-supporter contacted, but still had their old Guelph address.  In other words, the database was not annotated to show that the person had moved from Guelph since previously contacted--this particular field was not "maintained"--but it would contain an updated phone-number--this particular field was "maintained".

That seems unlikely.

Update: To put this a little more clearly, if the "non-supporters" end of CIMS had really been non-maintained, then robocalls employing that list would never have reached any riding outside of 519; calls would have gone to phone-numbers that were either no longer working or had been reassigned to someone else in the Guelph region.

6 comments:

liberal supporter said...

So it is clear they track people who do not support them in their database.

Are there privacy laws that govern an organization maintaining a dossier on me? They are not the government. They are not law enforcement. They are not an entity with which I have any kind of business relationship.

Do I have the right to demand that they show me whatever information they have on me? Do I have the right to demand corrections or deletions?

My data belongs to me. But then, they don't believe my body belongs to me if I have a uterus, so I suspect they have the same attitude here.

bigcitylib said...

I think political parties get certain exemptions from privacy laws.

Sixth Estate said...

Political parties are not corporations or government departments, so the laws governing personal information handling in those settings don't apply to them.

The only restrictions on what they do with your data would be whatever voluntary restrictions they impose through their own privacy policies.

Terrence said...

It doesn't seem that unlikely to me.

Lots of people put data into CIMS. As far as I know, that data comes from different sources, each bit of which may convey only one or a few of the different fields in the database at a time. This could allow inconsistencies to develop of exactly the type you described.

What the Conservatives should have are rudimentary consistency checks that would at least flag records in which the address and area code were out of sync.

Terrence said...

Example:

Constituent A contacts CPC MP Brown by letter in 2004. Brown now has A's address (which happens to be located in the 519 area code, but that's obviously not part of the address as it is recorded.)

Constituent A moves to CPC MP White's riding. Needing urgent attention, A phones CPC MP White to complain. White now has A's phone number (say, a 705 number.)

White's intern is able to identify Constituent A in the database because Constituent A has a distinctive name. He adds the phone number to the record, and because he is just an intern fails to note that the address is not in the 519 zone.

Indeed, White's intern may not even realize that it was Brown's office that started the record, either because that information is not recorded or (more likely) he is just an intern.

Seems simple enough to me. No malice or evil plot required. Just incompetence, which I'm not excusing.

liberal supporter said...

So if someone leaked the contents of the long gun registry to a political party, could they enter the info into a database? Could they keep it under the same laws that allow the CPC to track me should I ever call my MP (assuming my MP is CPC), with me having apparently no recourse?