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Political Parties keep tabs on voters.

Posted by watchingcyfswatchnewzealand on March 26, 2007

As posted on CYFSWATCH NZ

Political Parties keep tabs on voters.
Monday, 26.03.2007, 08:53am (GMT12)

Voters can access database files

By TRACY WATKINS – The Dominion Post | Monday, 26 March 2007

Political parties can be made to hand over information they have compiled about individual voters under the Privacy Act, it has been revealed.

Until now, there has been confusion over whether parties can be forced to open up their files on voters, which have been compiled using increasingly sophisticated electronic systems.

Parliament and individual MPs are exempt from scrutiny under the Official Information Act and under the Privacy Act.

But Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said individuals could request access to their own details held on political party databases under the Privacy Act.

The news comes as the Office of the Privacy Commissioner sounds a warning about the “silent revolution” in the collection, sorting, storage and trading of our personal information.

Ms Shroff said businesses and governments were increasingly relying on “information-rich” databases of personal information which might result in more efficient services to clients, but which also led to greater profits and more effective targeted marketing.

“Political parties are no exception in hoping to gain extra mileage from collating and accessing details about voters and constituents.”

The Dominion Post revealed recently that political parties have set up databases to track voters’ views and which can be used for campaigning.

Information gathered on constituents is merged into one database, which can be used to target swing voters, among other purposes.

National used almost $90,000 of taxpayer funds for its database, called Feedback, and Labour’s equivalent – which it says used no taxpayer funding – is called Electrac.

National says Feedback includes information from the electoral roll and might also record things such as letters written to a local MP on a particular issue.

In Australia, there has been criticism about the use of a sister-system to collate information from letters to newspapers, talkback shows and other mediums.

Senior National Party figures have argued that the electronic system is no different from the days when MPs used to keep a manila folder with relevant information about their constituents in a filing cabinet in their offices.

But Ms Shroff said the difference today was that, with electronic media, New Zealanders’ personal details could be pooled and could potentially be accessed with ease by any party employee or member of Parliament.

“Technology has transformed the humble scrap of information,” Ms Shroff said.

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