Sunday, November 25, 2012

Is a leak at Elections Canada providing confidential voter information?

On Friday, Canada’s notorious robocall propagandist Stephen Maher published yet another “Gotcha!” moment in the robocall conspiracy: that some Conservatives in the riding of Laurier-Sainte-Marie never actually donated to the Conservative campaign, despite the Conservative’s financial statements saying they did.


Of course, it all blew up when it turned out those individuals did donate to the party, and it turned out Maher published his bogus story without even bothering to ask the Conservative Party for comment.

But there’s a more concerning issue here:

“Postmedia tried to contact all the donors on the riding’s donor list from 2007 to 2009, almost 550 people. Many failed to return calls; others could not be located.

Here’s the Elections Canada database, in which you can search for any person who’s donated to a political party.  No issue there: it’s publicly available information.

Anyone can click on a person’s name, which opens up a pop-up window which says the person’s name, city, province, and postal code.  That’s it.

So here’s what concerns me: how was Maher able to contact these individual donors – indeed voters – when the only information Elections Canada publicly provides is the postal code?

As if it’s not sleazy enough to have these two rifling through garbage cans to stir up their next false controversy, it’s just plain suspicious to be attempting to contact voters – and succeed at least 11 times.

From whom did Maher obtain these voters’ information?
How many times did Maher attempt to contact them?
At what times of the day did Maher attempt to contact them?
What exactly did Maher say to these individuals once he got a hold of them?
What exactly did these individuals say to Maher?
How did Maher contact these voters?  Elections Canada apparently does not track phone numbers, so are we to believe Maher contacted over 500 people by mail – and by postal code only, no less?

And secondly, if Maher was able to use another source of information to contact voters, doesn't that prove he's using another party's database (or some other voter ID software) to contact these voters?

Most importantly of all, is there a leak at Elections Canada?  At worst, they could be providing confidential access to voters lists, which is not allowed:
Safeguarding your personal information 
Elections Canada takes precautions to ensure that the information contained in the National Register of Electors is kept secure and used for authorized purposes only. Employees' access to the Register is carefully controlled, and the database itself is physically secured and protected by hardware, software, firewalls and procedural controls.

We already know Elections Canada has had employees leaking information to the media for months, so it’s not a far stretch.

What do you think?

Update June 2013: I'm not the only person questioning whether a leak exists at Elections Canada.  Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro has had confidential interviews with Elections Canada mysteriously leaked to the press.