Someone expended a lot of time, money and resources to consolidate a database on 191 million American voters – and then put it online.
Federal agencies are now trying to track down the owner of a giant database uncovered by an independent computer-security researcher from Texas. Experts fear the data could be used by criminals to spearhead countless fraud schemes.
“The alarming part is that the information is so concentrated,” Chris Vickery told Reuters on Monday. The Austin man found the trove of personal information while researching data leaks. He then reported it with help from CSO Online and Databreaches.net.
Vickery said the information he found includes names, addresses, birth dates, party affiliations, phone numbers and emails of voters in all 50 U.S. states and Washington.
Although the data is considered public information, it would take a herculean effort to glean and organize such a high volume. Complicating matters for the owner would have been the process of navigating different rules protecting voter data in each state, although many have no restrictions.
Privacy advocate Jeff Chester, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Digital Democracy, told the news service he was disturbed by Vickery’s find.
“Privacy regulations are required so a person’s political information can be kept private and safe,” Chester said.
A representative with the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to comment for Reuters’ story.
Some of the information found by Vickery appears to have been gathered from NationBuilder, but the software provider denied owning the database.
“From what we’ve seen, the voter information included is already publicly available from each state government, so no new or private information was released in this database,” NationBuilder Chief Executive Officer Jim Gilliam said in a statement, Reuters reported.