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Security The Internet Politics Your Rights Online

18 Million Targeted Voter Records Exposed By Database Error (csoonline.com) 75

itwbennett writes: Last week, a database containing 191 million voter records was exposed because of a misconfigured database that no on wants to claim ownership of. Around the same time, a second, smaller database containing fewer than 57 million records similar to those previously discovered was also found by researcher Chris Vickery. But the second database also includes 18 million records that hold targeted demographic information. And as was the case with the previous voter database, no one wants to claim ownership.
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18 Million Targeted Voter Records Exposed By Database Error

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  • Better summary, from TFA:

    >> the database appears to be from Nation Builder's 2014 update from February or March

    • Nation Builder sells data to others, so while the data originally came from NB no one is taking ownership of the database that is exposed to the public.

      Speaking to Dissent, Nation Builder said that the IP address hosting the database wasn't one of theirs, and it wasn't an IP address for any of their hosted clients.

      But is Nation Builder to blame? Not really... So while Nation Builder denied any claim to the IP and the leaked database, it's entirely possible they might know who developed it – but that would require an extensive records check. This is because a developer or campaign wishing to access the Nation Builder Election Center would need to register their contact details, such as name and email address. However, Nation Builder is under no obligation to identify customers, and once the data has been obtained, they cannot control what happens to it. In short, while they provided the data that's in my newly leaked voter record, they're not liable in any way for it being exposed. And to be clear, I don't blame Nation Builder for my leaked record either, I blame the person(s) who developed the database and poorly configured its hosting. I'm just not sure who they are yet.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @02:54PM (#51236945) Journal
    Election law is quite esoteric and it forbids "coordination" between people with similar goals. One way to defeat it is to collect the data and leave in a secret location but arguably a public location. The other party gets tipped off and they collect the "publicly" found info. Ted Cruz dumped tons of unedited video shoot in some public you tube account to provide material for his PAC to create advertisements for him without "coordination". Someone found it and comedians had a field day with it. They had specifically avoided copyright claims to allow the other party to use it legally. Now comedians happily playing with it.

    Similarly Fiorina just accepts invitation to speak from different group, posts these invitations publicly in a google spreadsheet. Her SuperPAC uses this info to organize all the campaign work. Uncoordinated coordination!

    This database could also be one of the deep pocketed presidential campaigns getting the info without paying for it, or provide the info without appearing to coordinate with them.

    Just wish we would just scrap the elections and just sell the elections to the highest bidder at this point.

    • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday January 04, 2016 @03:01PM (#51236975)

      >> wish we would just scrap the elections and just sell the elections to the highest bidder

      Do you really want the Service Employees International Union in charge?
      https://www.opensecrets.org/or... [opensecrets.org]

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Anyone tipping less than 15% will be shot.

    • by gilgongo ( 57446 )

      "Just wish we would just scrap the elections and just sell the elections to the highest bidder at this point."

      I'm too lazy to Google for it now, but I quite liked the idea of giving all voters in elections a fixed number of "tokens" which they could give to candidates who stood for office. The tokens could then be redeemed by the candidates for funding from the state for their subsequent election campaigns. A sort of pre-election election. Think that guy looks interesting? Toss him one of your tokens and se

      • but I quite liked the idea of giving all voters in elections a fixed number of "tokens" which they could give to candidates who stood for office. The tokens could then be redeemed by the candidates for funding from the state

        I kinda prefer that the tokens be called "dollars" and the "state" not be involved in deciding who gets them, or who they are taken from so they can be handed out.

        Keeping track of the lists of people who can vote is hard enough without having to create another list of people who get tokens and how many. Doing such a thing at the state or federal level means the local voter lists have to be consolidated and become just another database that the state and feds can use to ... whatever. Lose track of and deny

    • One way to defeat it is to collect the data and leave in a secret location but arguably a public location.

      This database is basically an empty shell of an election information DB. Remember the thing between Bernie Sanders and Hillary? They share the same basic DB, with factual information like age and address. Then each campaign can add their own secret information on top of that, which was inadvertently opened up. This mystery DB doesn't have any of that secret sauce.

    • Just wish we would just scrap the elections and just sell the elections to the highest bidder at this point.

      The great thing about elections is that the one with the most money DOESN'T necessarily win. Money sure helps, but there are innumerable examples of the big spender losing, even post-Citizens United.

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )

      Just wish we would just scrap the elections and just sell the elections to the highest bidder at this point.

      I'd prefer to see elections go to the lowest bidder. Give me a dollar each month, elect me, and I will vote however you and all the other people that gave me a dollar want me to vote.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's also how they transfer weapons in the Middle East. Leave them in an armory, and it gets "raided" by "terrorists". Pretty much what happened in Benghazi...

  • These are voter registrations that are apparently available to any organization with the resources and connections to buy them or compile them... Aren't we better served if we just had the states make this information available for download? To my thinking it would be better to know what is known about us and what is being used to target us with political and commercial marketing rather than keep our information private. Although, certain law enforcement professionals have already expressed concern about

    • by DaHat ( 247651 )

      Aren't we better served if we just had the states make this information available for download?

      Most states put limitations on how the data can be used: ie only political, law enforcement, journalistic, etc. The issue in part becomes how do you prevent people from misusing the list(s)?

      Finding the home address of a potential stalking target becomes easy, as is using the data for marketing or other commercial purposes (which most states prohibit).

      Watermarking a CSV file in a way that a quick search for differe

      • by jandrese ( 485 )
        Good luck enforcing those laws. Just buy a home and see how quickly your mailbox gets filled with flyers addressed directly to you offering home services.
        • by DaHat ( 247651 )

          Tell me about it. When a renter I was slightly annoyed by 2-3 credit card offers a week... now I've got 2+ refinance offers in addition to at least 1 credit card offer, not to mention solicitations by real estate agents for when I am ready to sell my house. My wife was even puzzled by the fact we got a Christmas card from one of these agents this year.

          The difference though is that property sales/ownership information generally doesn't have these sort of prohibitions on them.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      Fewer people will vote if spammers etc. can get their personal information.

    • by crbowman ( 7970 )

      While I'm generally a supporter of open records and transparent government. I'm don't understand what the rationale is for releasing this data. Why do I have to release my information to the public in order to avail myself of my basic right to vote? I could see that there would be some uses, research into voter demographics for redistricting and for study of fairness of voting but I'm not sure all this information is required to allow that, and even more I'm not sure the value outweighs the down side.

    • There's this other thing called the phone book. Granted it doesn't contain your DOB. But it does have most of your name, address, and phone#.

      I fail to see the importance of this database that these folks found. Yes - your data is out there - companies collect it. It exists, are you surprised? Was a law broken in "leaking" this information (doesn't sound published - more like an accidental leak). In my state it is illegal to post public access into on the web - you have to come get it in person. But I

      • by bigpat ( 158134 )

        I am more concerned that this is public information and it isn't being made available online. Besides an "opt out" provision for your specific address to address the concerns of police officers, judges or anyone who is afraid of stalking or whatever, just like you might have for a telephone directory, this information could be used by individuals, local groups, and others to find people that are registered democrats and registered republicans or independents. This data is already being used to target th

  • "I'm not responsible"
    (this is where I rant and rave like a lunatic)
    I wish Americans would grow up. They are a bunch of children who are irresponsible, spoiled, pandered to, expect everything handed to them, do not understand basic finance, lazy, and greedy. This is coming from an American who sees this everyday and is disgusted. Instead of fixing the problem you will see companies and lawyers standing around pointing fingers.
    (end of rant)

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      To be fair, concerning this database being open to the public, I am not responsible.

      Then again, it is public information. We could probably save a bit of time and energy by just making it a publicly available download in a few different formats - from txt to .sql to .csv. Hell, we could even make it downloadable in .pdf format.

  • There's a limited set of people who have access to this database.

    Lets put them all on trial.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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