In Alberta, Canada the United Conservative Party is running a leadership campaign to replace Jason Kenny. Whoever wins this UCP Leadership contest will be the next Premier of Alberta so it was a big deal today when the party announced a bizarre limitation:
6.3. All preliminary membership lists and the authorized membership list will include each member’s name, mailing address, residential address, and phone number. Email addresses will not be included.SOURCE
The candidates have been told that all email to members must be routed through the Party head office and that those messages cannot contain links back to the candidate. This means the UCP party will control the email flow and all of the information that comes from it. This is asking for corruption.
What’s Wrong with Centralized Email in a Political Contest?
If email communications are threaded through a single source, here is what can happen:
1 – No Way To Prove Email Was Actually Sent to All Members
It is pretty obvious that a malicious email manager could simply send the email to all 60,000 UCP members. For instance if that person wanted Brian Jean to do poorly they could send the email to all those in his riding of Wood Buffalo plus a few hundred others. He would receive some feedback so he would think the message was delivered but it would be very easy to omit all or most of the party members from Calgary, or Red Deer, or all of Southern Alberta.
2 – Easy To Ensure Message are Spam Filtered
There are many ways to ensure that a particular email gets caught in spam filters:
- Hiding spam sensitive words in the message
- adding the word VIAGRA in a white font so the human eye does not see it (white lettering on a white background = hidden) but spam filters will definitely see it and likely block it
- Foreign Routing
- sending the email through a Russian mail server will likely cause rejections.. Non-tech’s will have no idea where the message was routed but email servers love to block Russian and Chinese originated mail
3 – Make Preferred Candidates Email More Visually Appealing
If the party is sending out all of the emails, they can easily make:
- their preferred choice look better and more successful by prettying up the email formatting
- their non-preferred choices emails look dowdy. This will make readers think that the person has collected less money and is less successful
The video below was recorded when MLA and UCP Deputy Leader Leela Aheer spoke out against the Party. The video itself is fine but the thumbnail picture you see before playing it is intentionally bad. This is the nasty political game the UCP leadership plays all the time.
4 – Data Collection Goes To The Party Only
Did you know that when you open an email it is easy for the author to collect all of this information:
- which messages were opened
- where the message was opened
- what time of day a message was opened
- what browser / email program is used
- what language the email / browser is using
- what device is being used
They can do this by simply linking a graphic included in the email to a webpage. This is how ALL large scale email marketing is done now.
That means the Party will know much more about their members than their members have provided. The combination of this type of data with other existing databases is very powerful and is what caused the massive 2018 Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal involving then Presidential candidate Donald Trump.
5 – Information in Responses Are Known To The Party
The party would know which messages were resonating with members and which ones are not. They could easily feed that information to their preferred candidate. This is what happened in the 2016 United States Democratic leadership contest in which the party actively fed information to Hillary Clinton and pushed Bernie Sanders supporters away. Ultimately, this scandal led to the Party’s Chair, Debbie Wassermann, to step down.
What if you replied to a email to Rajan Sawhney about how successful and smart Chestermere Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer is. The party would have full access to that information and might target you with future messages.
6 – Responses Can Be Filtered By The Party
There is no way a candidate can be sure that all voter responses are given to the candidate. It is quite easy for the Party to receive 1000 responses and only send the candidate 300. How would they know?
Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant
The Conservative Party (one half of the UCP), has a nasty record of “questionable” ethics, and Jason Kenny is still under Elections Alberta investigations for illegal behavior in his 2016 nomination.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and having only the UCP Party as the un-audited central controller of email is asking for problems.