An unsecured database containing information on more than 190 million US voters has been floating around the internet, and nobody seems to know how it got there. That’s a troubling sign as political campaigns become increasingly dependent on collecting, analyzing, and utilizing personal voter information.
Internet researcher Chris Vickery found the database on Dec. 20; it has since been taken down. The database contained information that citizens provided to states when they registered to vote: names, addresses, phone numbers, and potentially demographic info and voting history.
The information would be time consuming to aggregate (it can be purchased from state governments) but it is only truly useful to campaigns when combined with other data sets obtained from media companies, pollsters, and direct voter contact.
Vickery, recognizing the voter file information that is used by campaigns to plot outreach and strategy, began contacting political data vendors to figure out where it came from, and found telltale data labels used by a company called Nation Builder.