It’s a sad feature of contemporary life that data breaches are as common as changes in the weather. Still, the news that a misconfigured database resulted in the exposure of about 191 million registered voters’ personal information is incredibly alarming. For years, skeptical political theorists have warned that, although new technology held great potential for voting, it came with many potential threats to voter privacy and security. Unfortunately, some of these valid concerns were hijacked by conspiracy theorists, especially after a notorious series of scandals were linked to Diebold voting machines in the 2004 presidential election. But given this week’s news, it’s time to return to the question of how technology can compromise voter security, with an eye to developing constructive solutions.
On Dec. 20, a security researcher named Chris Vickery discovered holes in the security of a massive database of voter registration information.
The database contained information required for voter registration, including names, home addresses and phone numbers, dates of birth, political affiliation, and participation in primaries and elections dating back to 2000. Thankfully, the database didn’t include driver’s license numbers or financial information.