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Canadian Liberal Party

Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room
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DJ elektron-

TRIBE Member
hey folks

funny story i found with a good message.

take care out there
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Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
Liberal MPs have been using parliamentary funds to pay for services from companies that provide two of the governing party’s most important digital campaign operations, and that also run its powerful voter-contact database.

An examination of expenses filed in the House of Commons shows 149 Liberal MPs, or 97 per cent of the caucus, made payments out of their office budgets to Data Sciences Inc., founded by a close friend of Justin Trudeau.

And 152 Liberal MPs made payments to NGP VAN, a political-campaign software used by the U.S. Democratic Party and licensed by the Liberals to run their Liberalist database.

The issue of expenses claimed by Liberal members of Parliament raises ethical questions about whether taxpayer funds are being spent for partisan political purposes.

The party denied, however, that MPs’ office budgets were paying for the two database services to help identify voters and issues into the runup to a general election expected this fall.

These payments were reported in MPs’ expense filings for the fourth quarter of the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which ended in March, but some of the spending dates from earlier periods.

“This system is for constituency casework management in a parliamentary context only,” Melissa Cotton, managing director of the Liberal Research Bureau (LRB), said in an e-mailed statement. The LRB is a parliamentary funded research organization. The Conservatives, Bloc Québécois and NDP have comparable groups.

“In an effort to assist our caucus members, the LRB facilitates the administration of these parliamentary contracts for ease of billing, training and support. The contract is billed to individual MPs.”

While Ms. Cotton explained that NGP VAN had been modified to handle constituency work, she provided few details on what Data Sciences does for Liberal MPs. In a later e-mail to The Globe and Mail, she said Data Sciences provides “support and technical guidance to MPs’ offices” in using NGP VAN software.

Liberalist is a modified version of NGP VAN Vote Builder software used by the Democratic Party, which the Liberal Party licenses and manages. Montreal-based Data Sciences Inc. provides technical support for Liberalist.

Data Sciences Inc is owned by Tom Pitfield, a childhood friend of Mr. Trudeau who ran the Liberals’ digital operations in the 2015 and 2019 elections. He is expected to take on the same role in the next general election.

Mr. Pitfield’s company is known for using algorithms to target and swiftly adjust digital advertising during elections. The Liberals say the company is only providing social-media monitoring analytics for MPs.

Liberal MP Wayne Easter said the modified NGP VAN tracks constituency casework, correspondence and identifies the occupations of constituents.

However, Mr. Easter said MPs are instructed by the party to be careful in how they handle this system, to avoid misusing information for partisan and electoral gain.

“There is a constituency program that really does help with constituency work. It is a good system, so you can track farmers or fishermen if you want feedback on legislation,” he said. “There is a political component and there is a firewall between the two, so you can’t basically use constituency side for your political side.”

Mr. Easter was unable to explain what Data Sciences did for his office in managing social media.

“I do my own,” he said. “I quite honestly don’t know what [Data Sciences] does,” he added.

Liberal MP John McKay also said he had no idea why money from his office budget was going to Mr. Pitfield’s company.

“I haven’t got a clue,” he said. “I can’t explain it. I vaguely recall once a year we write a cheque and it’s always been explained that it is within the ethical guidelines, so we all kind of sign up for it and it goes into some oblivion.”

The information about the two contracts had not been previously disclosed on the House of Commons website until new financial-disclosure rules recently came into force. A Liberal Party source said most of its MPs have been paying for the two data-base related services since 2016, which is co-ordinated through the Liberal Research Bureau.

The total cost to taxpayers claimed by Liberal MPs for NGP VAN in their fourth-quarter reports was $74,290. The amount MPs collectively claimed for Data Sciences was more than $30,000.

Conservative ethics critic Michael Barrett said taxpayers’ money should not be going to digital companies that also work for the Liberal Party.

“So, we have a situation where taxpayers dollars are being used to effectively subsidize the political digital operations of the Liberal Party of Canada,” he said. “These are taxpayer office budgets paying subscription fees for running the Liberal Party’s ‘black ops’ and their election software.”

Mr. Barrett said he does not believe the Liberals when they say there is a firewall to guard against constituency information being used to help them politically.

Braeden Caley, communications director for the Liberal Party, denied that MPs’ budgets were funding partisan activities.

“All of the Liberal Party’s digital engagement fully complies with the Canada Elections Act,” he said. “The Liberal Party of Canada continues to work with Data Sciences on a wide variety of innovative digital-engagement programs – just as we have through both the successful campaigns of 2015 and 2019.

Mr. Pitfield’s wife, Anna Gainey, was the president of the Liberal Party, and is also close to the Trudeau family. The Pitfields and the Trudeaus vacationed together at the Aga Khan’s resort in the Bahamas over the Christmas holidays in 2016. The Ethics Commissioner ruled a year later that Mr. Trudeau had violated conflict-of-interest rules by accepting the free holiday.

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
Man the future looks like it'll be all sorts of fucked...

Civil liberties group urges Liberal Party to stop using facial recognition technology

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is calling on the governing Liberals to stop using facial recognition technology to verify the identity of people voting in candidate nominations.

In a letter obtained by The Globe and Mail on Wednesday, the association calls on the Liberal Party of Canada, or LPC, to “cease and desist using it.”

The party’s “use of the controversial technology takes unfair advantage of its exemption from Canadian privacy laws, and sends the wrong message to municipal, provincial and federal election officials that this technology is ready for prime time,” reads the letter signed by executive director Michael Bryant and privacy and surveillance program director Brenda McPhail.

“By using it for the purposes of nominating candidates for federal election, LPC is tacitly endorsing an unreliable, racist technology.”

The letter acknowledges that the type of technology that the party is likely using is “less invasive” because it compares one photo to a picture of an ID, rather than scraping a database to find a matching face.

The civil liberties association compares facial recognition to taking someone’s finger print because it uses the physical characteristics of a face to create a mathematical model that is unique to each individual. “Its so private, its so unique, it works because it creates a code that identifies you, just like a finger print is a code that identifies,” Mr. Bryant said in an interview with The Globe.

The Liberal Party’s website dose not mention the use of the facial recognition technology in its privacy statement or in its explanation to nomination race participants about how their identities in the virtual candidate elections are verified. However, when going through the identification process, the bottom of the website says, “powered by Jumio.” The California-based company’s name stands for “just use my ID online.”

“In order to verify your identity, you will be asked to take a photo of the front and back of the driver’s licence as well as a selfie so we can match you against your ID,” the Liberal Party’s website says. It adds that “the party does not store any of these images – we only use them to confirm your identity.”

“As soon as a nomination voter is verified, associated information is deleted immediately and automatically, and not retained,” Liberals Party spokesperson Braeden Caley said in an emailed statement. Mr. Caley did not at first clarify whether that applies to both the Liberal Party’s and Jumio’s use of the information. After the story was published he said it applied to both.

Jumio’s privacy policy posted on its website says the company will not store your facial recognition information “after Jumio ceases to have a customer relationship with the customer through which you used Jumio’s identity verification service.”

It adds that the company will not store your facial recognition information “after Jumio ceases to have a customer relationship with the customer through which you used Jumio’s identity verification service.”

“Jumio may process certain individual users’ information in anonymized and/or aggregated form for its own purposes,” the website says.

Mr. Bryant said there is a lack of transparency and clarity on exactly how that information is used. “This is the problem there are so many unanswered questions and unknowns because this is an entirely unregulated technology,” Mr. Bryant said.

Voters can choose between the automated verification process, which Mr. Caley said is similar to processes in the financial and hospitality sectors, or a manual ID verification process with a live official over video.

“The Liberal Party undertakes a robust privacy review before engaging with new virtual tools, and like all of our engagement with Canadians, this process has moved forward in full accordance with the party’s strict Privacy Policy and the Canada Elections Act,” Mr. Caley said.

“The Liberal nominations process is moving forward in a manner that ensures people can safely vote from their homes out of respect for public health precautions, while maintaining the integrity of our elections and protecting privacy.”

The federal privacy commissioner has raised concerns about the practice because of its “potential to be extremely privacy invasive.”

“It can enable widespread surveillance, provide biased results, and erode other human rights,” Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien told the House of Commons ethics committee in May.

“If used responsibly and in the right circumstances, it can offer significant benefits to society,” he said. “At the same time, it involves sensitive personal information that is unique to the individual and is permanent.”
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