Democracy Must Respect Privacy

Canadian Flag marked with an Xlag
Yesterday I saw a link to a new initiative intended to try to re-engage Canadians who have given up on our terribly undemocratic political system. It looked like an excellent idea — if course it did, I’ve been advocating the same thing myself for ages. The site was recommended to me by people and organizations whose work I respect and support, so I shared it widely without looking at it as closely as I usually would.

But I was wrong.

DO NOT SIGN UP with votepromise.ca!

When I made the recommendation yesterday, I had only looked at the first page of the site. Today, someone told me what happens when you click to make a “vote promise.” This web site is not only asking people for their own names and personal information, but also for the names and personal information of the people they would be trying to convince to vote.

Democracy Needs A SECRET BALLOT

The *only* way to have a democratic electoral system is by having a secret ballot and protecting the privacy of eligible voters.

Just because political parties ask us who we are going to vote for, does not mean they have a right to know.

THEY DON’T.

How we vote is private information for a very good reason. It is one of the most important protections afforded citizens in a democracy. In fact, it is positively DANGEROUS for citizens to tell elected Representatives who we are going to vote for. Especially when the political party in power is known to have an enemies list!

Citizens known to have voted against it can find themselves suffering serious consequences in their daily lives. The consequences having our privacy breached in this way may put citizens in danger of (but not limited to):

  • losing promotions, or
  • even their job,
  • Political affiliation might cost someone admission to the university of their choice
  • or prevent them from getting the apartment
  • research grant
  • building permit
  • visa
  • or job that you want.
  • It might even result in direct harassment.
  • Even families could suffer repercussions.

Citizens need civil rights to prevent the state from abusing the considerable power at its disposal. The government of the day might not provide you with the assistance or services to which all citizens are supposed to be entitled, or even go out of its way to harass you more directly..

But it isn’t only that. You can just as easily suffer discrimination from employers, teachers, or anyone holding power over any part of your life if that person is devoted to a different political party than the one you voted for. One of the most difficult parts of discrimination, is that it can be so skilfully done you might not even notice it has happened, let alone prove it did.

This is why NO ONE has the right to know who you actually vote for. If they do, you can be coerced into voting they way they want.

The secret ballot is a cornerstone of democracy.

And just as no one has the right to know who you vote for, whether or not you choose to vote is also personally private information. It is no one else’s business.

People Need Personal Privacy

Every time we sign a petition with our real name and identifying information, every time we register on Facebook (or *any* of the other social networks,) or buy anything online, we pay for the convenience with our privacy. Adults have the right to decide for themselves if they are willing to give up their own privacy, and how much. Many people have bought onto the absurd argument that we don’t need privacy if we have nothing to hide. And that is their right.

I know people who will not willingly give up their privacy. I know people who only use the Internet anonymously, away from know, using serious encryption and proxy servers. I also know people who don’t want to be photographed, people who don’t use computers, and people who will never use Facebook, Google or Twitter &tc. because they are simply not willing to sacrifice their privacy.

Most people used to dismiss these people as conspiracy theorists, at least until a brave and honorable young man named Ed Snowden risked everything to inform the world that every thing we say and do on the Internet (and the telephone) is being monitored and/or stored in perpetuity by our government in concert with the NSA.

While every adult should be entitled to make their own decisions about how or if they wish to safeguard their own privacy, no one has the right to decide this for anyone else. It doesn’t matter whether you do or don’t care about your own privacy. The privacy of every Canadian is supposed to be safeguarded by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Fundamental Freedoms

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

(a) freedom of conscience and religion;

(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and

(d) freedom of association.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Internet is a public place. Posting an identifiable photographs of a private people on the Internet without their permission is an invasion of their right to privacy. “Tagging” a photo of a private person is an invasion of privacy.

Giving anyone’s personal information to anyone else is an egregious invasion of privacy.

If you are willing to give a website like <a href=”http://votepromise.ca/votepromise.ca your own personal information, you are at least covered by the terms of its privacy policy (as ineffectual as that policy may be). When you surrender anyone else’s personal information, they are not.

EFF warns all it takes is three pieces of personal information to identify anyone.

If you give votepromise.ca the name, email address and postal code of anyone else, you have not only positively identified them, you have broadcast their voting decision.

XflagSQ

Even if you trust votepromise.ca to protect your own personal information, even though it is not even a secure website, all of this personal information it gathers will certainly be harvested by government to do what it will.

Democracy Requires Privacy

One of the reasons we need democracy is to safeguard personal privacy; there is no way I can ever support throwing privacy under the bus. That is not acceptable.

It is an excellent idea to discuss politics with your friends and neighbors. Just try to convince anyone you think might not vote to go out and cast their ballot the way they want to, in any and all elections.

Just don’t be telling votepromise.ca or anyone else about it.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves
[Thanks Tim Southernwood!]

One thought on “Democracy Must Respect Privacy

  1. I also shared a link to votepromise.ca without clicking through first, then promptly left the site when I realised what it was asking me to do. I would have been fine with providing *some* of my own information, but to provide other people’s info like that was over the top. Thanks very much for this — will share.

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