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Computer Privacy Annoyances by Dan Tynan

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POLITICAL PRIVACY

Vote Yes on Privacy

The Annoyance:

I just moved across country, and one of the first things I did was register to vote in my new state. A few weeks later I started receiving phone calls, junk mail, and visits from local party officials. Did somebody take a peek at my voter registration records?

The Fix:

They did a lot more than peek. Your voter registration information is part of the public record, though what’s in it and who can access it depends on the state where you live. At a minimum, voter rolls contain your name, address, date of birth, and the elections you’ve voted in (though not whom you voted for). But many states also collect additional information, such as your party affiliation, gender, race, and all or part of your Social Security Number (see Table 6-2).

By Federal law, all 50 states and the District of Columbia must share your voter registration records with political candidates and their parties. The parties then plug this information into massive databases, combine it with other data, and use it to raise money, get out votes, and otherwise harangue you at election time.

Politicos aren’t the only ones who have access to your voter data. According to a May 2004 study by the California Voter Foundation (http://www.calvoter.org/), 43 states use voter registration lists to find prospective jurors. (In Arkansas, Missouri, and Montana, voter rolls are the only source for filling the jury box). Some 22 states allow your registration records to be used for commercial ...

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