The voter list is a critical item in any election. It is needed for the enforcement of basic principles, such as only allowing valid voters to participate and preventing those who are not from taking part in the election.
As an answer to the risks involved with citizen enrolment and the protection of their information, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) has announced that they will design a tool that will allow electoral bodies to improve the digital security of their registries, in turn protecting the privacy of the data they contain.
IFES is promoting this initiative after the recent leaks of the voter lists of the American states of Arizona and Illinois. According to local press, the databases compromised by the hackers contained “Personally Identifiable Information (PII)”, that is, names addresses, biometric and gender info on the voters.
Other leaks have taken place in Turkey and Mexico. In the former, the data of 50 million citizens, was hacked; 1.5 GB of compromised files were posted online, containing information such as the identity number, dates of birth, and addresses of these individuals. In the Latin American country, the information of every single eligible Mexican voter (93.4 million) was also posted online.
The International Foundation for Electoral Systems stated this information “must be protected through robust data security measures”, and that they will conduct an “in-depth analysis of Electoral Management Bodies (EMB) digital security practices and develop a diagnostic tool to help EMBs practice better digital security”.
For now, they urge these bodies to make digital security a top priority. The foundation considers that the sharing of voter list data “must have stronger protocols for secure data transfer and guaranteed anonymity of individuals”.
It also recommended to update data privacy laws, and for government authorities to channel more resources to understanding the relationship between open data and digital privacy, including voter information.