Respectful Data Management

OADC – Open Architecture Data Collection

Data is absolutely critical to any political campaign!

But unlike the traditional objective of data collection by political parties, which is to find people who can be tapped for funds to run the political machine, a movement that aims to do politics differently needs to re-evaluate data from the ground up. It needs to have the courage to walk away from outdated practices.

Open Architecture Data Collection (OADC) is based on one simple principle: The principle of transparency. In an age where more and more organizations collect more and more information about us, political parties face a growing backlash to traditional data collection for political gain. As far back as 2012 the Canadian privacy commissioner published an analysis that had this to say:

International Efforts to Protect Personal Information Held by Political Parties

The notion of “political privacy” has a long tradition within our democratic cultures. The secret ballot is enshrined as a constitutional right in most Western societies. This principle protects our fundamental voting choices from bribery, intimidation or harassment. Moreover, and in the context of modern privacy law, political opinions are invariably defined as special or sensitive categories of personal data, which may only be processed under clearly defined conditions.

For instance, the Council of Europe’s Convention 108 on the “Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data states that: “Personal data revealing racial origin, political opinions or religious or other beliefs, as well as personal data concerning health or sexual life, may not be processed automatically unless domestic law provides appropriate safeguards.”

Provisions such as these stem from the sensibilities of countries with more recent traditions of authoritarian rule, and from the memories of the repression that did, and does, occur when political privacy is not respected.

Gathering data to serve the data subject, that is the person who’s data is being gathered, has merit and can be justified. It happens all the time, for example when we choose to save our login information in our browser for our personal convenience. What OADC aims to achieve is to always respect the data subject’s wishes and choices. It does that by allowing the data subject to enter the database and edit all the information that the database has on that subject. You are familiar with this process from your on-line banking experience. When you log into your financial institution you don’t see all the data they have on all their customers, but you do see your own accounts and other information that is attached to your own accounts (mind you they don’t tell you everything although if they employed OADC methods they would). So in the context of a listening campaign, a data subject should be able to log into your database and see their own data. They should be able to edit it, add to it, update it and delete it as they see fit. In other words, the data should belong to them, not the political party. Here is how this would play out in a campaign. When you ask a person to tell you about their areas of concern or interest as part of a listening campaign, you would enter this into your database. Then if a person wishes to check if what you entered about them is correct, and edit it in any way, they could simply log in securely and do so at their discretion. This would create a whole new layer of confidence, respect and trust between the party and the voter.  

And as Seth Godin points out in this video, “If you can earn the trust and attention of just a small percentage of the people, not only will they eagerly show up, they will bring their friends.” And that’s the authentic way to get out the vote.

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