A massive file of voter records left unsecured online has exposed personal information on millions of Texas residents, TechCrunch reported.
The single file — stored on an unsecured server with no password — contains about 14.8 million records, the report stated.
Why does it matter?
The discovery comes at a time when nation states are actively trying to influence elections and a long string of online security breaches have left many people feeling concerned about privacy and safety.
TechCrunch reportedly reviewed the file, which was first discovered by a New Zealand-based data breach hunter who goes by the pseudonym Flash Gordon. It was not clear exactly where the exposed file was found.
The file is about 16 gigabytes in size and contains “dozens of fields, including personal information like a voter’s name, address, gender and several years’ worth of voting history, including primaries and presidential elections," according to the report.
Some of the voter information is typically considered public. Generally, that information can include your name, street address, party affiliation, election participation, phone number, and email address. Each state sets its own limitations on what's public.
How is the information used?
Although the most basic information might be somewhat benign, data brokers that get a hold of it are able to work it into something very personal.
“That’s where this file fills in the gaps with dozens of other fields, which can be used by campaigns to position their political messaging,” TechCrunch reported. “For example, the data includes fields that might score an individual’s believed views on immigration, hunting, abortion rights, government spending and views on the Second Amendment.”
Other personal information included phone numbers, ethnicity, and race.
Exactly when the data was compiled was not known, but it appears to have been ready for the 2016 presidential race. For example, data was used to create predictive "scores" that included whether people had “trust” or “no trust” for then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Has this happened before?
It’s not known if the data file is a subset of the leak of 198 million voter records that was found last year. And since there is no “owner” to inform about the exposed information, the data may still be online, the report stated.