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Sunday, April 20, 2008


All is quiet in the Pennsylvania primary regarding the voter registration data leak that was reported back in March. The state had to halt access to the online registration site where some 30,000 personal voter records were made available for all to see. According to Computerworld, it was the online application form designed for simplification that contained a Web programming error which released the voter’s name, date of birth and driver’s license number. In some cases, even the last four digits of the individual’s Social Security number. The primary is tomorrow, and the question arising from this now is how many of the 30,000 will be spooked into a reluctance to vote as a result of the incident? Of course, the damage is already done so that should not be a factor in the decision to go to the polls. But I am sure the citizens of Pennsylvania would like to know if their private voter information is secure once again. Sunday’s edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the state’s largest newspaper, had no mention of the data leak on their Web site. If things are back to normal, you would think that headlines would be blasting the fact that voters should feel secure in both the registering and voting event. Beth Givens of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse even said: "When word gets out, it will be one of those things that will deter people from registering to vote." Computerworld points out that in the past voter databases have been made available to political parties for mailings, but all the sensitive data was removed. Today, with it available online, mistakes are bound to happen and obviously it did. It is bad enough to have your private information outed with the chance you could become a victim of identity theft, but when it is done in connection with your right to vote, and it could have an affect on your decision of whether or not to exercise that right, there is real damage done. Maybe I missed it somewhere in my research, but after Googling every search phrase I could come up with relating to the issue, there is no mention of assurances from the state of Pennsylvania that the voting system is now secure. And that reeks of recent personal data breaches in the private sector where TJX (TJ Maxx, Marshalls) and Hannaford Bros. super markets delayed releasing information. This only makes potential victims worry that much more, and delay any necessary protection strategy that might prevent fraud. Incidents like this are being reported on a daily basis, which is currently resulting in business and government simply applying band-aids instead of fixing the problem. The only answer to this dilemma is for the American consumer, and voter, to demand that Congress pass federal legislating to grant individuals control over their names and private information, compensating them when it is sold to provide incentive to take on this new responsibility. If anyone has a better idea I would like to hear about it, but if not, it is time to seriously consider this concept.

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