Sunday, December 14, 2003

States sell voter registration information to marketers

Wired News via NewsScan: Mining the Vein of Voter Rolls

Unbeknownst to most citizens, state officials are selling their
voter-registration information to political candidates, nonprofit groups
and data collectors who then combine it with census data, purchasing
histories, credit reports and magazine subscription lists in order to
fine-tune their messages or marketing pitches to specific constituencies,
such as pickup truck drivers who subscribe to "Soldier of Fortune" or SUV
drivers who buy lacy underwear at Victoria's Secret. And while some states
limit sales to political groups, 22 states lack any criteria restricting
who may purchase the information. "Voters fill out these forms in good
faith, thinking the information they're providing is needed for the purpose
of administering elections," says California Voter Foundation founder Kim
Alexander. "Then they get phone calls or a knock on the door from campaign
strangers who have a list of their personal data." Alexander says the
information requested by many states, such as Social Security numbers and
mother's maiden names, could easily be used for identity theft. The
situation has become especially troubling since Congress passed the Help
America Vote Act last year, which required that states develop a
centralized, statewide voter-registration database, making it possible for
third parties to collect huge amounts of data very easily. Alexander says
the reason there's been no outcry against the practice is that "the people
who ultimately decide how voter data should be allowed to be used are the
politicians… Politicians need to rein in the laws, yet they're the biggest
consumers of data." ( 11 Dec 2003)

Yawn. Same old, same old. Privacy is for billionaires. Evidently Americans don't care for it.

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