Michael TaubeIn 1985, the late soul singer Aretha Franklin released her 13th studio album, Who’s Zoomin’ Who?

The album did well on the charts (the title track went to number seven on the Billboard Hot 100), with significant crossover appeal due to collaborations with Annie Stewart (Eurythmics) and Peter Wolf (J. Giles Band). It became the Queen of Soul’s only studio album to receive platinum certification.

Franklin’s album title became popular for a spell, too. It’s slang for quietly or secretively checking out another person’s appearance.

I would suggest the recent brouhaha between Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidates Erin O’Toole and Peter MacKay could be viewed as a modern example of who’s zoomin’ who. In this case, it would be slang for quietly or secretively checking out another leadership candidate’s policy positions.

Let’s go back a few steps.

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Last Friday, the O’Toole campaign filed a “formal complaint and request for investigation with the RCMP, OPP and Toronto Police Service” against the MacKay campaign and senior campaign organizer Jamie Lall.

The complaint reportedly involved “the theft of confidential O’Toole campaign data and strategy, including specifically the theft of Zoom video conferences, including confidential campaign strategy video conferences, and of video conferences with Conservative Party members across Canada.”

According to the press release, an internal investigation by the O’Toole campaign “found that senior MacKay campaign organizer Mr. Lall obtained confidential O’Toole log-in information on June 5.” The investigation identified that the “stolen downloads occurred over the past two weeks on June 5, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12 from both Calgary and Toronto,” and the materials have been passed on to law authorities.

The O’Toole campaign has called for the immediate return of “any stolen data or videos,” as well as “the immediate termination of all involved in this potentially criminal action” from the MacKay campaign.

Unsurprisingly, the MacKay campaign immediately denied this accusation in a brief statement. It was described as “mildly amusing,” a “desperate, last ditch strategy” and that “it is not surprising that this is a tactic being trotted out the same week that Erin O’Toole performed very poorly in the debates in front of Party members and Canadians.”

Lall posted a short tweet on June 20 stating, “Not a single word of this is true,” followed by three laughing emojis.

While I  have no idea whether this accusation is true or false, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Zoom, which was founded by businessman Eric Yuan in 2011, has truly been a blessing during COVID-19. Many of us have used its cloud-based, peer-to-peer software to hold meetings, conferences and family get-togethers during this extended period of social/physical distancing. The Canadian and U.K. parliaments have regularly used it, too.

Unfortunately, it’s also had significant issues with respect to breaches of privacy and security.

There have been reported instances of hijacking, or “Zoom bombing,” of everything from small business meetings to various religious houses of worship. This has led some groups and organizations, including Google, SpaceX, NASA and New York City’s Department of Education, to either ban or restrict the use of Zoom until these privacy and security flaws have been properly addressed and eliminated.

That’s why it’s important for the RCMP, OPP and Toronto police to thoroughly investigate the O’Toole campaign’s allegation against the MacKay campaign.

It’s going to splinter the Tory leadership race and cause a lot of frustration and hurt feelings. One side will likely be left with egg on its face – and face the humiliation of a public apology and potential loss of support before the Aug. 21 deadline for mail-in ballots.

But that’s the only way to prove who’s Zoomin’ who – or who’s not zoomin’ who.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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