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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection The Resource Center | article

Are Presidential Campaigns Keeping Your Information Safe?

Campaign emails can indicate surprising security risks.If you’ve been involved with the 2016 presidential campaign in any way — perhaps as a campaign volunteer, a donor, or even an interested voter — you’ve probably received a mountain of campaign emails. Candidates use these as part of their strategy for keeping voters informed about their day-to-day activities. But even if you value the ability to stay up-to-date on your favorite candidate, you should know that their campaigns have likely collected a significant amount of your personal data.

It’s important to be aware of the potential risks that these email lists may pose to your privacy.

Are presidential campaigns safeguarding the information they collect?

Political campaigns have been using technology to give themselves an electoral advantage for years. President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns were notable for the way they built complex data sets to keep track of supporters and get them to the polls on election day.

At first glance, it would seem that this is little different from the ways in which private companies collect consumer information that they later use for targeted advertising purposes. But privacy advocates are particularly worried about the data collection habits of political campaigns, arguing that they lack the same privacy standards that are becoming common in the private sector.

In a recent study, the Online Trust Alliance found that only six of the 23 presidential campaign websites created in 2016 met sufficient standards for privacy and security. Some failed because they did not have an adequate privacy policy. Others declared their intention to sell information belonging to visitors, such as addresses, phone numbers and even passport numbers. Even data on visitors’ political views can be valuable.

“It’s not just your credit card information [campaigns are collecting],” Craig Spiezle, executive director of OTA, told The Hill. “Many of the sites will ask you profile questions when you donate. What is your view on gun control? On women’s rights? There’s a good reason a candidate would want to know that, but what happens when that’s let out?”

The good news? The study found that nearly all of the campaigns performed well on server security. Seventy percent used Always-On SSL, which encrypts each web session. This would make it harder for thieves to steal information directly from the campaign websites.

However, it is more difficult to determine the security practices of the third-parties who purchase personal information from the campaigns. For this reason, voters may be at a higher risk than initially thought.

It doesn’t take much to commit identity theft

One thing that often shocks people is the idea that identity theft can be committed with very little personal information. If a thief has enough to get into your email account, they have the ability to reset the passwords for almost every account you use. In addition, stolen Social Security Numbers allow thieves to create financial accounts under your name, leaving you in debt and with broken credit.

It’s important for all Internet users to understand that their information is never truly safe. If you’re going to put yourself out there online, you may want to consider signing up for an identity theft protection service. This will monitor your credit reports and public records and notify you of certain activity that may be indicative of fraud. You should also consider signing up for Privacy Now. This tool can assess your risk profile and help you manage your privacy risks.