Political Spyware

from the spyware-for-the-people dept

It’s likely that any discussion on this story will turn into a political discussion — which it shouldn’t. We won’t name the political party, because that would bias the conversation. Suffice it to say that we wouldn’t be surprised if either of the major political parties were caught in a similar situation these days. Political spam is so tired these days. It’s time to move on to political spyware. Found via Digg comes the story about how folks at Minnesota Public Radio were checking out a promotional CD-ROM being sent out by a political party concerning one of the hot-button issues that the press love to talk up. Looking through the CD, the person noticed that it had an “access code” and asked the user to vote on various items, but never made it clear what the purpose of those votes were. It turns out that the votes all get sent back to the political party. That’s not all that surprising, but there’s no privacy policy anywhere, and it’s never made clear what’s actually being sent or what’s being done with the data. Perhaps that’s because it has no privacy at all. After playing around with the CD some more, the same people discovered that not only was it sending a ton of personally identifiable info, it was sending it to a website that left all the data completely exposed for anyone to look at. So, you could see the political views of 25,000 people who took the time to check out the CD… some of whom probably had no idea that their info ever left their computer.

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Comments on “Political Spyware”

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techpoop (user link) says:

Re: Are not these politicians supposed to be setti

Nonsense. Why a higher standard. They are mere mortals like everyone else, just with inflated egos. They stopped being servants when the Judicial Branch took over the Legislative Branch and bloated it with their attorneys. They don’t need higher standards, just fair and equal application of the standards they impose on others.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Are not these politicians supposed to be setti

Hey! Since when are politicians smart enough to come up with this. It is obvious to me it was simply a requirement of whoever they hired to produce the disk, and they simply made it happen. Be nice if they were more careful with our info, but I don’t really blame an organization trying to get around the public’s apathy (who bothers to fill out a questionaire card and send it back?) and get the info back automatically. Plenty of outfits do that already for more base reasons. (I tend to just lie through my teeth on them anyway, just to be difficult.) Who is going to sit there and say George and Dick were smart enough to cook this one up, anyway?

Andrew Benton says:

How is this different

How is this different than watching the Clinton News Network? I feel dumber everytime I watch cnn, with its range of shows that bring on two dems to argue about things, talk about fair reporting. I’d much rather insert a GOP cd into my computer, than get basically spyware from my tv. And this cd seems to be no different than visiting a flash website. Am i wrong?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How is this different

How is this different than watching the Clinton News Network? I feel dumber everytime I watch cnn, with its range of shows that bring on two dems to argue about things, talk about fair reporting. I’d much rather insert a GOP cd into my computer, than get basically spyware from my tv. And this cd seems to be no different than visiting a flash website. Am i wrong?

I’d have to say that you are. Not that I’m at all a fan of any of the outdated, sensationalist 24h news channels, but cnn doesn’t collect, transmit, or expose any personal information from its viewers. Which is a huge differece. And I don’t know what kind of flash websites you’ve been visiting, but a flash website in and of itself does none of those things either. It certainly has the ability to, but that is a far cry from saying software that collects, transmits, etc your personal information is the same thing as a flash website.

A-Man says:

Re: Re: How is this different

I suspect that this fellow does not even really know what a flash site is exactly. Flash is simply a program that when used in a web design context would allow more exciting and ineractive graphics and short animations. How this collects data and sends it just because its flash is beyone me. I say right on anonymous coward for pointing out this guy. I noticed a decent amount of poeople said things after him and didn’t comment……

spell czech says:

Re: 4th ammement

alternatives wrote : “The Minnesota GOP is just showing how much they care about the spirit of the 4th Ammenment” in a comment entitled: “4th ammement” Sorry but I find it hard to take the views of a person who can’t even spell seriously. It is not “ammement” and it is not “ammenment”. The word you are thinking of is “AMENDMENT”. I can understand the occasional type-o but yeesh…

Phil (profile) says:

Take a good look at the laws in this country

Politicians DO set an example. The example they set is of what happens when you give people power. It corrupts them.

The laws in the contry are not about what’s good for the populace. They are about whats good for the politicians. Take a good look at the labor laws as a good example of this. Politicians have EXEMPTED themselves from a large number of the laws that they force on everyone else.

They exempted themselves from the Do Not Call laws. They exempted themselves from the Do Not Spam laws.

They will exempt themselves from spyware laws (assuming they have not already done so).

They set a CLEAR example: Me and my needs first, then we might consider you, maybe, if it get’s me votes or publicity.

Anonymous of Course says:

Re: Take a good look at the laws in this country

The items on your list are small potatos
compared to social security contribution
and discrimination in the workplace laws
which they’ve exempted themselves from too.
They’ve voted themselves a very nice wage
and retirement package as well.

It makes me want to puke.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

whats wrong with giving the republicans all the info they want? they are only looking out for our best interests, and ofcourse they arent serving us, we are just lowly citizens. Its our job to serve our government so that they can make all the important decisions about which wars we should fight, and tell us who we should be afraid of. If giving up every tidbit of information about the american people helps keep terrorists out of my back yard than im all for it

i mean if your not doing anything wrong what do you have to worry about?

Beck says:

How The Data WiIl Be Used

Political groups have been using this technique for years with telephone polls. They call people and record their answers. The person answering the questions thinks it is one of those anonymous opinion polls with the results announced on the nightly news, but actually the organization is building a database of voters. The person’s opinions are recorded and held for future action.

This CD is doing the same thing, they are building a database of voters. The information is very useful for targeted actions.

They will use the data when it is closer to election time. Fundraising and the final “get out the vote” effort will be targeted to those people who support the organization’s position. For example, query and report all voters who are 65+ years old and support our position, call them and offer to drive them to the polling place. (And unfortunately some groups have contacted voters who do not support their position, and told them that their polling place has been changed.)

jmonkey says:

No Subject Given

“Suffice it to say that we wouldn’t be surprised if either of the major political parties”.
Well then suffice it to say you haven’t been paying attention for the last six years. What ridiculous bias. Why not say the name of the guilty party unless you want to imply the other?
It must be great to be a Republican these days. Scandals involving the Democrats are evidence of how corrupt the Democrats are. Scandals involving Republicans are simply evidence of how corrupt politics are in general.
Quite a double standard.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: No Subject Given

Quite a double standard.

Not at all. Because politics seems to bring out such an emotional reaction, we’re very careful never to place specific blame on either party. As far as we’re concerned, they’re both pretty bad.

It’s also why we try not to name political parties when mentioning politicians. Without that info, it’s often hard to tell who’s who.

The focus of this story should be on what happened, not the political element. If you want that, go to a political site.

This site dislikes most politicians equally.

jmonkey says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

I truly hate that “we discrimate equally”. How’s this: it’s ok for me to hate black people becasue I hate Jews equally as much.
And your “this site dislikes most politicians equally” comment proves my point about tarring everyone with the same brush regardless of actual guilt.
It’s not all hard to tell who’s who in the world of political corruption – they’re usually Republicans. I’ll name the ten most recent and serious if you’d like: but they’re still all Republican scandals.
I’d also be happy to debate the reason for this if you’d prefer, whether Repubicans are generally more corrupt because of their nature or if it’s a normal reaction to controlling all branches of government or whether the Democrats would act the same in the same circumstances. All valid for discussion.
Butimplying by ommission that the other guy could be guity is dishonest.

Mark (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: No Subject Given

jmonkey said:
>I truly hate that “we discrimate equally”. How’s

>this: it’s ok for me to hate black people

>becasue I hate Jews equally as much.

>It’s not all hard to tell who’s who in the world

>of political corruption – they’re usually

>Republicans. I’ll name the ten most recent and

>serious if you’d like: but they’re still all

>Republican scandals.

I’m sure your comment (and your other anti-Republican buddies here on the board) are incredibly well intentioned. I’m ever-so-certain you’re going to convince that silent majority of undecided voters out there in America that Republicans are the source of all evil and corruption. Keep it up.

Meanwhile, you’re missing the three, clear, recent examples of Democratic Party Vote Fraud and Corruption I mentioned earlier.

Meanwhile, you’re looking like a moron talking to a non-existent undecided electorate.

Meanwhile, you’re missing the point and the directive put forth *in the original post*: “discussion on this story will turn into a political discussion — which it shouldn’t

Personally, I don’t see Democrats and Republicans. I see Dumb and Dumbererer.

/mark “rizzn” hopkins

TyroneSlothrop says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No Subject Given

As a reformed political junkie, it both pains and exhilerates me to see a thread like this. An opportunity for everyone to ignore the problem at hand and break out their best, ‘Well, my guy may be bad, but look how terrible your guy is’ comments. What people seem to fail to recognize is that this form of argument leaves it up to the audience as to who is worse, but takes as a given that all are guilty, and so it accomplishes little other than salving the bad conscience of those involved.
What is so troublesome about this event, as well as similar events such as the political Wiki debacle and the abhorrent standards of electronic voting is that rather than introduce emerging technologies into political discourse as a potential for solutions, we are lately introducing technoloy as a source of the age-old corruption, cunning, and character/career assassination that typifies immoral politics.
That said, rather than try to make one parties depths seem better by comparison to another party, why don’t we as voters instead call government on their naive ignorance of technology as a potential widespread solution when they prove publicly in their less-than-honest moments that they are comfortable enough to have it be a part of their personal strategems.
Honestly, what pro-technology initiatives have either party (and I am talking about technology that helps the people of the US, not just technology developed for an by the Military Industrial complex) spearheaded? Aside from their slavish commitment to pursuing pro-market copy protections as well as producing and supporting anti-piracy propoganda, what has the government done recently to promote a positive and equally distributed technological solution to any of the myriad problems plaguing our nation?
Seriously, lets stop limiting our political discourse to sophomoric bombast and actually propose workable solutions to real problems.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: No Subject Given

I truly hate that “we discrimate equally”. How’s this: it’s ok for me to hate black people becasue I hate Jews equally as much.
And your “this site dislikes most politicians equally” comment proves my point about tarring everyone with the same brush regardless of actual guilt.

As I said, the focus was on what happened, not the political angle. And, we did say *most* politicians. We’re willing to talk about good politcians if they do stuff related to tech that makes sense. Just haven’t seen many lately.

From a technology standpoint, however, it seems equally likely to us that either party would do this. Not out of maliciousness, but out of technology cluelessness.

This is not a political discussion. Why do you think that us saying that makes it a political discussion?

Mark (user link) says:

Re: Clearly, I'm Still Surrounded by Idiots

Well, it certainly is nice to know that techdirt is populated by Republicans with no grasp on technology , and Democrats who have deluded themselves into thinking that Republicans are the source of and sole originators of evil and sin. I thought I left you folks when I fled SlashDot.
Seriously – if you think that Democrats are above reproach in every way, if you think that Republicans are the only politicians that cheat and screw up elections then you have no sense of history (and as Churchill said, “Those who don’t know history are destineed to repeat it.”)
Have you ever heard of the situation in Illinois? Just call someone up and ask them – any random person in the phone book from the state of Illinois. Get them on the phone and ask them if the Democrats rig elections – it’s so much common knowlege. It’s such common knowlege there’s Discovery Channel Shows devoted to the idea. If I’m not mistaken, a prominent Chicago Democrat (Rostekowski was his name?) was removed from office due to allegations of voter fraud.
Not recent enough for you? How about the Motor Votor laws in Florida that allowed the election fraud of 2000 and 2004? Oh, but that was Republicans! They’re the ones that benefitted! Yes, they found and exploited the loophole that was created 10 years earlier by Democrats. The Democrats thought that – hey, lots of snowbirds from New York and other Blue States come down and vacation in SouFla. We could make a law that says they can get registered with NO ID on the SIDE OF THE ROAD to vote in Florida, and have TWICE AS MANY BLUE STATES. Vote Early, Vote Often, and Vote Twice!
Unfortunately, these bad laws came back and bit Dems on the ass once the Republicans found out about it.
Not recent enough for you? Look at the recent governors race for the state of Washington. The Democrat there won the election just like the Lady Governor from that Chris Farley movie did in the state of Washington – by having dead people vote for her. In a situation where life imitated (well, I hesitate to call that art, but…) art, the Dems won the governer’s chair there.
Listen, I could make a list of Republican scandals too, I’m just trying to educate some of these Namby-Pamby Dems around here who think their party can do no wrong.
Personally, I’m a Libertarian.
/mark “rizzn” hopkins
“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.”
– Nikita Khrushchev

The Real Issue says:

Re: looking past our noses

It seems that the real issue we should be considering here (instead of how to bash “the other side”) is the vulnerability that this creates, and whether or not it will do so again. If this spyware is collecting “personally identifiable information” and making it accessable to anyone who cares to look it up, THAT should be the issue. The Constitution includes provisions to protect free speech and privacy, and although speaking out about something in public kind of revokes privacy (as far as those public expressions are concerned), something like this crosses the line into sneaky-and-invasive type tactics.
Perhaps what is called for is a class-action lawsuit here to send a clear message to others who might try this crap in the future.

Tyshaun says:

Poltical affiliation doesn't matter!

The problem isn’t democrats or republicans, it’s us Americans. The thing the Constitutional framers was most correct about was that it inhrently distrusted those that were elected to do the right thing, hence the reason so much of the constitution is designed to protect individual liberties against encroachment(sp?) from the government.
As a people, we have abandoned the idea of actively criticizing and questioning our elected leaders. As some have elluded to, we have stopped seeing elected officials as servants and pretty much handed them over the job of being our overlords. “We the people” need to stop passively taking what politicians spew at us and start telling them that if they suck, they’re not going to have a job for long.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter the party, inherently those that aspire for positions of authority are aspiring for power. The more complacent we are, the more power they will take for themselves. We elect people people partly because we believe they are “go-getters” and guess what, they are “going-to-get” whatever we are lazy enough not to protect.
As per the article, I think the next time some corporation get railed for releasing or not securing data properly, by EITHER party, this article should be quietly shoved under their noses.

Tyshaun says:

Re: No privacy world

It’s not surprising that the GOP would do this, they do exist in a no privacy world. Just look at the wire tapping that Bush is doing, which is clearly illegal.

I wouldn’t say it’s the entire GOP, just Bush and his croanies. In fact, take a look at the number of GOP members who publicly voiced concern an opposition to the program, more than I thought would.

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