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TUCoPS :: Privacy :: priv0923.txt

Privacy Digest 09.23




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<font size=+2><b>PRIVACY Forum Archive Document</b></font>

<A href="/privacy"><h3>PRIVACY Forum Home Page</h3></A>

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<PRE>
PRIVACY Forum Digest     Friday, 3 November 2000     Volume 09 : Issue 23

                (<A HREF="http://www.vortex.com/privacy/priv.09.23">http://www.vortex.com/privacy/priv.09.23</A>)

            Moderated by Lauren Weinstein (<A HREF="mailto:lauren@vortex.com">lauren@vortex.com</A>)         
              Vortex Technology, Woodland Hills, CA, U.S.A.
                         <A HREF="http://www.vortex.com">http://www.vortex.com</A> 
        
                       ===== PRIVACY FORUM =====              

    -------------------------------------------------------------------
                 The PRIVACY Forum is supported in part by
               the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery)     
                 Committee on Computers and Public Policy,      
                 Cable &amp; Wireless USA, Cisco Systems, Inc., 
                           and Telos Systems.
                                 - - -
             These organizations do not operate or control the     
          PRIVACY Forum in any manner, and their support does not
           imply agreement on their part with nor responsibility   
        for any materials posted on or related to the PRIVACY Forum.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------


CONTENTS 
        Texas Government Web Site Reveals Voters' Home Addresses and More
           (Lauren Weinstein; PRIVACY Forum Moderator)


 *** Please include a RELEVANT "Subject:" line on all submissions! ***
            *** Submissions without them may be ignored! ***

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Internet PRIVACY Forum is a moderated digest for the discussion and
analysis of issues relating to the general topic of privacy (both personal
and collective) in the "information age" of the 1990's and beyond.  The
moderator will choose submissions for inclusion based on their relevance and
content.  Submissions will not be routinely acknowledged.

All submissions should be addressed to "<A HREF="mailto:privacy@vortex.com">privacy@vortex.com</A>" and must have
RELEVANT "Subject:" lines; submissions without appropriate and relevant
"Subject:" lines may be ignored.  Excessive "signatures" on submissions are
subject to editing.  Subscriptions are via an automatic list server system;
for subscription information, please send a message consisting of the word
"help" (quotes not included) in the BODY of a message to:
"<A HREF="mailto:privacy-request@vortex.com">privacy-request@vortex.com</A>".  Mailing list problems should be reported to
"<A HREF="mailto:list-maint@vortex.com">list-maint@vortex.com</A>". 

All messages included in this digest represent the views of their
individual authors and all messages submitted must be appropriate to be
distributable without limitations. 

The PRIVACY Forum archive, including all issues of the digest and all
related materials, is available via anonymous FTP from site "ftp <A HREF="ftp://ftp.vortex.com/">ftp.vortex.com</A>",
in the "/privacy" directory.  Use the FTP login "ftp" or "anonymous", and
enter your e-mail address as the password.  The typical "README" and "INDEX"
files are available to guide you through the files available for FTP
access.  PRIVACY Forum materials may also be obtained automatically via
e-mail through the list server system.  Please follow the instructions above
for getting the list server  "help" information, which includes details
regarding the "index" and "get" list server commands, which are used to access
the PRIVACY Forum archive.  

All PRIVACY Forum materials are available through the Internet Gopher system
via a gopher server on site "<A HREF="http://gopher.vortex.com">gopher.vortex.com</A>/".  Access to PRIVACY Forum
materials is also available through the Internet World Wide Web (WWW) via
the Vortex Technology WWW server at the URL: "<A HREF="http://www.vortex.com">http://www.vortex.com</A>";
full keyword searching of all PRIVACY Forum files is available via
WWW access.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

VOLUME 09, ISSUE 23

     Quote for the day:

        "You have to open graves to find girls to fall 
         in love with?"

                -- Helen Grosvenor (Zita Johann)
                   "The Mummy" (Universal; 1932)

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Date:    Fri, 03 Nov 2000 17:56:57 PST
From:    <A HREF="mailto:lauren@vortex.com">lauren@vortex.com</A> (Lauren Weinstein; PRIVACY Forum Moderator)
Subject: Texas Government Web Site Reveals Voters' Home Addresses and More

Greetings.  During the current election cycle, conflicts between the use of
voter registration information and individual privacy concerns have appeared
a number of times.  These have highlighted the rapid pace with which
technology has taken data that is traditionally "public record" in nature,
and resulted in some very non-traditional impacts on individuals.  I've
written previously here in the PRIVACY Forum about commercial use of voter
registration data and related data-matching with Web activities (please see:
<A HREF="http://www.vortex.com/privacy/priv.08.22">http://www.vortex.com/privacy/priv.08.22</A>).

But today I learned of a remarkably egregious example of poorly-controlled
voter registration data -- a government-run Web site that even now would
seem to have the potential not only to violate people's privacy
expectations, but to put some individuals at physical risk as well.

In the state of Texas, as in many states, citizens are encouraged to
"automatically" register to vote when they go in to renew their motor vehicle
driving licenses.  But in the county of Denton, Texas you may get even more
than you bargained for.  In Denton County, you apparently get your home
address, gender, and other information listed in a <B>public</B> Web database
that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, for any reason from snoopiness to
stalking.

The Denton County, Texas Voter Registration Database Search page:

   <A HREF="http://elections.co.denton.tx.us/VRSearch">http://elections.co.denton.tx.us/VRSearch</A>

allows any Web user to submit a query with no identifying information other
than the target's first and last name, and their year of birth.  The "year
of birth" field, apparently a ludicrous attempt at security, can of course
be trivially guessed through trial and error.

The database then returns the person's full name (special bonus -- you often
get the complete middle name!), their registration address (which would
typically be their home address), their <B>complete</B> date of birth (month,
day, year), and their voter registration certificate number.  Click on that
number, and you get more information, including their gender. 

This is perhaps the most vivid example I've seen of why we need to
<B>immediately</B> take a long, hard look at the "public record" status of this
sort of information.  To have such data available without even a modicum of
a "need to know" requirement, and then to publish it to the world via the
Web, is breathtaking in its risks.  Any number of persons in sensitive
professions, persons involved in domestic disputes, or individuals in a
range of other situations could potentially be seriously, physically
compromised by the ease with which home addresses can be obtained via this
system.  Many of these persons might have assumed that they had protected
their home addresses by not listing them in the local phone books.  Plus, the
database's providing of complete birth date and full middle name could be
handy for identity fraud.

I attempted to reach Denton County, Texas officials to discuss this matter,
but was not successful. 

It's bad enough that this is happening right now in Texas, but unless there
are some immediate changes in how we treat such data, we can expect to see
similar Web-accessible databases in other areas around the country.  I
wouldn't be at all surprised if other municipalities already have plans to
deploy such systems (or already have them up and running).

Registering to vote should not necessitate the surrender of 
basic privacy rights!

--Lauren--
Lauren Weinstein
<A HREF="mailto:lauren@pfir.org">lauren@pfir.org</A> or <A HREF="mailto:lauren@vortex.com">lauren@vortex.com</A> or <A HREF="mailto:lauren@privacyforum.org">lauren@privacyforum.org</A>
Co-Founder, PFIR: People For Internet Responsibility - <A HREF="http://www.pfir.org">http://www.pfir.org</A>
Moderator, PRIVACY Forum - <A HREF="http://www.vortex.com">http://www.vortex.com</A>
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy

------------------------------

End of PRIVACY Forum Digest 09.23
************************


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<A href="http://www.vortex.com"><h4><i>Vortex Technology Home Page</i></h4></A><p>
<A href="/privmedia"><h4>Radio, Television, and Press Contact Information</h4></A><p>
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