January 16, 2008

Outfits mine Voter Registration records

Vanity Fair reports that database broker Aristotle is amassing, cross-referencing and selling voter registration and political donation information:

“People are getting hassled by marketing firms and hassled by consultants, and much of that information comes from signing petitions or off the voting databases."

In most states, voter registration databases are public information, by law. The governments sell this information, along with driver's license data.

"One such [commercial data] supplier is Acxiom, the Arkansas-based behemoth that stores unimaginable quantities of data. In 2003, a single hacker stole Acxiom records on 20 million people, according to Washington Post reporter Robert O’Harrow’s 2005 book, No Place to Hide."

Aristotle's data gatherers might soon be taking photos in public and harvesting data-rich magstripe information from credit cards and identity cards:

"Phillips picks up one of the custom-designed pocket-P.C. scanners that go with the Aristotle 360 system. With them, canvassers working for campaigns will swipe credit cards and driver’s licenses, take pictures of voters using an embedded micro-camera, and instantaneously feed all of the resulting information into the database."

The inescapable conclusions I draw from this are that voting and making political donations are much more likely to result in an individual's inclusion in a database, whether the data mining effort is governmental, political, or for more direct monetary profit. The magnetic-strip scanners are a reminder about how electronic cards can facilitate mass surveillance of a type unintended by their issuers.

In situations when Social Security Numbers and Social Insurance Numbers can't be used as database keys or for matching individuals, mailing addresses and date-of-birth (DOB) is frequently used. Therefore, remember to keep your full name, DOB and mailing address (hopefully it's not the same as your street address!) to yourself as much as possible.

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