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Privacy Plus+: The Intersection of Privacy and Politics

Privacy, Technology and Perspective

The Intersection of Privacy and Politics. This week, we get apocalyptic about election interference, and apoplectic about governmental entities who contract without appropriate due diligence and contract negotiations.

The United States has an important political and policy question ahead: How is it going to ensure the integrity of elections? Election interference is a real danger.

Why do elections impact privacy? For the answer, ask yourself this:

  • Q: What’s supposed to be the most private space in America?

  • A: The voting booth.

You step in; you think; you make your choice; you leave, having expressed your voice, voting for what you believe and who you believe in. Our democracy would not function if we did not vote. If our votes are not private, and they are interfered with, our democracy also ceases to function.

Please read these important links on the latest news regarding election interference:

• +Recently, the Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that Russia hacked the election systems in all 50 states in advance of the 2016 elections, but did not alter the vote totals. A link to the Committee’s report follows: https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Report_Volume1.pdf.

• +Former special counsel Robert Mueller found that Russia actually influenced the election by using: (1) “a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States,” and (2) “cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials damaging” to damage a certain candidate. A link to Mueller’s report follows: https://cdn.cnn.com/cnn/2019/images/04/18/mueller-report-searchable.pdf.

• +The Washington Post published a story about other nations’ coordinated, deceptive online meddling. A frequent tactic is the use of “sock puppets,” fictitious identities used to attract attention and spread provocative views. The Post describes a March 16 tweet from “Alicia Hernan” – a blond woman in a turtleneck with big round glasses – which read, “That stupid moron doesn’t get that by creating bad guys, spewing hate-filled words and creating fear of ‘others,’ his message is spreading to fanatics around the world. Or maybe he does.” There was no “Alicia Hernan.” “She” was an Iranian sock puppet. The Post says China, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel, and Venezuela also host online influence operations with a history of cross-border meddling. A link to the article follows: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/07/25/its-not-just-russians-anymore-iranians-others-turn-up-disinformation-efforts-ahead-vote/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d6362025f701.

Note that during the recent hearings, Mueller testified that efforts to interfere in our elections have not stopped:

It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign. I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear that it is.”

We share Mueller’s fears, and echo what Elijah Cummings, chair of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters:

I’m begging the American people to pay attention to what’s happening,” representative…Because if you want to have a democracy intact for your children, and your children's children, and generations yet unborn, we've got to guard this moment … This is our watch.”

What really worries us (besides apathy, interfering foreign governments and recent steps to block increased funding to the states for election security)—and should worry you too—is that voting machine suppliers are not properly vetted, electronic ballots are inherently insecure, and it is almost impossible to perform a meaningful post-election audit without a paper record of each voter’s selections. Even the leading supplier of voting machines has called for a paper voting record, which you can read about at the following link: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/06/nations-leading-voting-machine-vendor-vows-to-ditch-paperless-voting/.

What is clear is that we have at least three paths before us. One, ignore everything; and encourage an arms’ race of efforts to get inside American voters’ heads or even voting machines. Two, create a initiative to vet voting machine suppliers, up-secure voting machinery and implement a paper record (No governmental entity should be contracting for voting machines without careful due diligence and contract negotiation – Apparently, the State of Georgia just awarded a contract valued at over $100M to a vendor who, at the time of this publication, does not have a privacy notice on its website - https://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/455211-georgia-awards-contract-for-new-voting-machines). Three, a combined effort of vetting voting machine suppliers, up-securing voting machines and implementing paper records, concerted counter-espionage against foreign influencer campaigns, and public education. The first path of pleading ignorance will violate every government official’s oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic. The second won’t be enough. The third will be expensive and require a determined will. It is the only answer.

Hosch & Morris, PLLC is a Dallas-based boutique law firm dedicated to data protection, privacy, the Internet and technology. Open the Future℠.

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