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Society

Firm Leaks Personal Details Of Nearly 200 Million Voters

| by Sheena Vasani

A marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee accidentally leaked the personal details of nearly 200 million American voters.

On June 12, cyber risk analyst Chris Vickery found the sensitive information stored on a publicly accessible Amazon server by Deep Root Analytics, UpGuard reports.

The data reveals almost two-thirds of the U.S. population's home addresses, birthdays and phone numbers, making it the largest ever leak of voter records in the U.S., According to Gizmodo,

In addition, the records also include political analyses on citizens, ranging from voter opinions on controversial topics -- such as gun control and abortion -- to their suspected religious beliefs and ethnicity.

Deep Root Analytics has since admitted to the error.

"Since this event has come to our attention, we have updated the access settings and put protocols in place to prevent further access," Deep Root Analytics founder Alex Lundry said.

Lundry said he did not believe a malicious third-party accessed the open data.

Some experts are still concerned about who may have accessed the data during the 12 days it was public.

"This is valuable for people who have nefarious purposes," said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

It's not the first time sensitive voter information has been divulged. In the past 18 months, between 350,000 and 191 million leaked files revealed information such as addresses, phone numbers, email accounts and records of gun ownership.

"Campaigns are very narrowly focused," explained Hall. "They are shoestring operations, even presidential campaigns. So they don’t think of this as an asset they need to protect."

"I can think of no avenues for punishing political data breaches or otherwise properly aligning the incentives," he added. "I worry that if there’s no way to punish campaigns for leaking this stuff, it’s going to continue to happen until something bad happens."

News of the leaks also worried many on social media.

"Younger generations really need to start pushing cyber security as a primary voting issue in the next election," wrote one Reddit user. "This needs to be the #1 bipartisan issue for our elected officials to tackle. They need to desperately educate themselves on the issues and work towards solutions that protect our country's data. It's too valuable to be treating so carelessly."

Some expressed also skepticism the leak was an accident.

"I honestly can't believe someone would be this stupid," added another. "This has to have been done on purpose. They have engineers on their team. People that know at least a little bit about security."

"I'm a developer, this is how I would do it if I was being paid to get the information out -- can't risk direct contact, can't prove you gave them the data if they merely come across it," chimed in a second.

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