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Presidential Campaigns Leak Supporters' Info To Tracking Firms

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the incompetence-or-incontinence dept.

Privacy 67

Peter Eckersley writes "Stanford privacy researcher Jonathan Mayer has published new research showing that websites of both the Obama and Romney presidential campaigns, which are used to communicate with and coordinate their volunteers, leak large amounts of private information to third-party online tracking firms. The Obama campaign site leaked names, usernames, zip codes and street addresses to up to ten companies. The Romney campaign site leaked names, zip codes and partial email addresses to up to thirteen firms."

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67 comments

Leak? (4, Insightful)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847357)

That's not so much a "leak", and more of a "take this". They probably even get paid for it.

Re:Leak? (4, Interesting)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847423)

One side of me says:

Prosecute the fuckers, no matter who they are.

The other, more dark side says:

Same old stuff, different day.

Re:Leak? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41847923)

Have to agree here. There is a huge difference between a 'leak' and a contract that you get paid for. The tracking code was not surreptitiously placed on those sites.

Whenever I see stories like this the anger is always directed at the trackers, never at the folks that contracted with the trackers. I don't think any politician or political candidate follows the "don't be evil" mantra.

Re:Leak? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41848713)

The browser has been constructed specifically to allow and encourage this type of data collection and/or identification. Microsoft has ALWAYS done their utmost to encourage 'users' to provide as much information about themselves and facilitated data capture for anyone who owns and operates a website.

The goal may not have been specifically naming individuals in order to find them in meat space, but it was certainly to be able to track and measure individuals in order to gather and parse demographics and marketing efforts and consumer trends. The entire analytics market has grown up around this type of information.

Do consumers care? Before you can ask them in order to get an answer, you'd have to educate them. And in order to inspire the kind of outrage espoused by the EFF, you'd have to convince people there's an evil, or at least potentially detrimental, downside.

Good luck with that. I didn't hear much outrage when Rich Perry stated that he'd be dismantling the EPA if he were elected president. And when the FDA went all commercial, with fast tracking, no one seemed to do much more than shrug.

Scott McNeally set the tone when he stated that, "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."

So... do something or... Get over it, already.

Reminds me of when I was a victim of wikileaks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41853039)

Once I received and email from wikileaks telling me the reason I received the email because I was on a list of GOP supporters. They were so over confident and basically told me "HA, you're a GOP supporter and we're outing you". I was on that GOP supporter list because I am a libertarian so naturally I would be much more interested in the GOP fiscal policy than any dem fiscal policy. Sort of like the Communist Party of the United State endorsing Obama because his regime's policies are much closer aligned to the CPUSA's agenda than the GOP's agenda, LOL

Well, since I am for responsible spending, small government, lowest cronyism as possible, non-redistibution of wealth (STEALING) and many other philosophies that are closely aligned with the constitution, the constitution framers and the founding fathers, I have no other conclusion that wikileaks is against these things and thus are included in the most infamous, anti-American and anti-patriotism groups that currently exist, in or outside of our borders. Which, by the way, inherently makes them a serious threat to national security.

Thank you, wikileaks, for outing yourselves!!! LOL

Romney wins! (0)

irbishop (1662375) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847433)

Romney out performs Obama yet again

Re:Romney wins! (3, Informative)

Nemesisghost (1720424) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847447)

Only in number of firms. Obama leaked more info.

Doesn't matter. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41847811)

The American people are sheep.

They're easily distracted by irrelevant issues and in the meantime, the power elite are getting most of what they want - with the occasional bone thrown to the you dogs.

It's a waste of time listing what those issues are because not matter what is said, there will plenty of heart felt and quite erudite responses to why I'm the idiot. Needless to say, if you're strongly for or against one party or another - to the point of calling the other "idiots" and whatnot, then you are a member of the sheep .

Sorry, you are a sheep. I can say this because as one of your masters, we have you brainwashed to the point where you believe any of this.

Have a nice day peon. And look out for the UFO driven by God.

Holy Mailing Ads (0, Offtopic)

GeneralTurgidson (2464452) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847449)

Obama and Romney have been sending me 12 page full color magazines daily for the past twelve weeks. I think there comes a point when campaign money should be capped.

Re:Holy Mailing Ads (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41847461)

Do you live in Ohio or something?

Re:Holy Mailing Ads (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41847619)

Could be a member of the Electoral College. Those guys could have blowjobs delivered every night between now and next Tuesday (twice on Sunday).

Re:Holy Mailing Ads (1)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847645)

How do you think the US debt clock got so high?

Politicians think it is a game and the debt clock is showing their score.

Re:Holy Mailing Ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41847819)

Yes the debt is too high. And I'm also in favor of campaign finance reform.
But the one has nothing to do with the other.

They are spending donated money, not public money.
But don't let me interrupt your righteous outrage. Preach on.

Re:Holy Mailing Ads (2)

cheater512 (783349) | about a year and a half ago | (#41849015)

Hey I'm Aussie. I just took the opportunity.

If they do that with donated money, what do they do with tax money?

Re:Holy Mailing Ads (1)

Nostromo21 (1947840) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847805)

I'd like to suggest $0 as a starting point & we can dutch auction our way down from there. Sounds good?
(it would make a refreshing change if the fuckers just sent us the money directly for our votes, don't you think...? :)

Re:Holy Mailing Ads (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41848155)

Obama and Romney have been sending me 12 page full color magazines daily for the past twelve weeks. I think there comes a point when campaign money should be capped.

Consider yourself lucky. I get nothing. You know why? Because my vote doesn't count. I'm not in a swing state. My state is poling 55 to 40%. Your vote counts, mine is just noise.

Re:Holy Mailing Ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41848701)

I too am not in a swing state. Romney's got my state guaranteed. And since I'm no fan of Romney, no matter who I vote for, I'm voting for a "loser". So I may as well pick a third party, preferably the one that others are most likely to vote for. It won't change who gets my state this year, but maybe if enough other Obama supporters realize they are "throwing their votes away" by voting democrat, and decide to do the same, then other people will start to notice, and maybe next election we might see some real change.

Re:Holy Mailing Ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41848177)

Obama and Romney have been sending me 12 page full color magazines daily for the past twelve weeks. I think there comes a point when campaign money should be capped.

Then cap the power of government - that's what all the donors are paying for - a bit of control over that power.

I'm paying for one of those. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41848731)

You'd better read it. *shakefist*

There oughtta be a law... (4, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847491)

but, considering that congresscritters exempted themselves from the Do Not Call phone list, it will never happen. We don't have a representative government, but one made of people who think they're better than those they supposedly represent.

Re:There oughtta be a law... (1, Insightful)

Hillgiant (916436) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847871)

Maybe I am the odd one. I WANT someone better than me in office.

Re:There oughtta be a law... (2)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#41848135)

I want someone in office who's so incompetent they can't get anything done. Less government is better government.

Re:There oughtta be a law... (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a year and a half ago | (#41848685)

But you dont want someone so incompetent that they get too much of nothing done, than you get...well... look around for the past 12 years

Re:There oughtta be a law... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41849049)

I want someone in office who's so incompetent they can't get anything done. Less government is better government.

That's quite a simplistic view on how societies work. Why don't you put your money where your mouth is, there are regions in the world with hardly any goverment at all, move there to see how you like it. Waziristan in Pakistan comes to mind, or some regions in Africa, in Somalia or some parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for instance.

Re:There oughtta be a law... (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year and a half ago | (#41849087)

Good idea, but you also need to make sure there is a fairly even split between parties to avoid "all the idiots are on the same side" issues.

Re:There oughtta be a law... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41849431)

You have your wish on the incompetence part but it's not that nothing gets done, it's that what gets done is for corporate interests.

Re:There oughtta be a law... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41848233)

There is a sizable divide between "want" and "have."

Re:There oughtta be a law... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41848785)

What you actually get are greedy morons who simply THINK they're better. If that's enough for you, well, congratulations your government has been here all along.

Re:There oughtta be a law... (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | about a year and a half ago | (#41849039)

Good luck with that. Politics are a great example of the Peter Principle in action.

Re:There oughtta be a law... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41848749)

No. How can they represent you if you cut the lines of communication? Their phone lines are open, you're welcome to call at any time. Newspapers are failing. News networks suck. God only knows how the postal service will fare in the coming decades. They have to get their message to you, so what the hell do you suggest?

The Founding Fathers exempted Congress (0)

stomv (80392) | about a year and a half ago | (#41848757)

Without a political call exemption, the law would have been thrown out under the First Amendment of the Constitution. You know,

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Don't like it? Amend the US Constitution. Good luck with that.

Re:The Founding Fathers exempted Congress (1)

msauve (701917) | about a year and a half ago | (#41848835)

"Without a political call exemption, the law would have been thrown out under the First Amendment of the Constitution."

Somehow, I think you really believe that. "Free speech" includes freedom _from_ speech, The DNCL is a voluntary, opt-in system. No one has any Constitutional right to contact me via a service for which I'm paying. It's not clear why you think political speech has special dispensation - there's nothing in the Constitution about what types of speech are covered.

Re:The Founding Fathers exempted Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41849569)

No, there is no freedom from speech. You cannot "opt out" of protesters talking to you outside of an abortion clinic.

Re:The Founding Fathers exempted Congress (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | about a year and a half ago | (#41848905)

How does a political exemption get the Do Not Call law past the Constitution? One's right to free speech doesn't obligate me to listen to it.

Ghostery (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41847503)

If you want to know which trackers are in use on a page, install Ghostery [ghostery.com]

I also run AdBlock Plus and NoScript.

Any other plug-ins that I'm missing?

Re:Ghostery (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847579)

I've had good luck with Do Not Track Plus [abine.com] for Chrome.

Re:Ghostery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41850563)

That sounds like a great idea! Finally you can give a single marketing company monopoly of all your information to do with as they wish.

Re:Ghostery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41847737)

The tracking sites probably filter out activity where AdBlock and NoScript is in use. A more amusing tactic might be a Greasemonkey Cookie Injector.

Re:Ghostery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41848603)

and hide ip easy, and I am sure that some of these peeps out there could do some wiced scripts for grease money... thats beyond me nut just a suggestion... poison the well as much as you can...

Re:Ghostery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41850559)

An even better solution, if you know how computers work, is to setup your own firewall (e.g. a dedicated OpenBSD-box) blocking all communication to and from Google (including _all_ their domains and IP-ranges) as well as other tracking websites. Thinking that blacklisting a single image or .js file from a server is enough to protect you is extremely naive.

Re:Ghostery (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41853093)

If you are on Firefox, you can stop cross-site requests all together with Request Policy (http://requestpolicy.com).

Not real "leaking" (5, Informative)

Coolhand2120 (1001761) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847557)

This isn't leaking in the traditional since that someone is giving databases of information to 3rd parties. The leaking going on here has to do with GET requests to their respective web sites containing identifying information in the URL. This is probably unintentional and may not even be occurring at all since a lot of the pages use SSL and the URLs are encrypted. Of course internal analytic software can (and probably does) retain the URLs, but that's hardly "leaking" information to 3rd parties. If I was using a pay-for analytics suite and found that the people I'm paying were looking at my private information (tracking data) I would be pretty pissed off and might even consider legal action.

TLDR: No "leaking" going on here. The headline does not match the content of the article.

Re:Not real "leaking" (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847915)

Mostly agreed, except that they could be a bit more careful to either have no identifiable account information in the URL or not have trackers on pages that contain account information; preferably both. What would be a better term than "leaking" for this blatant disregard of basic security practices? (That's not a rhetorical question - more an attempt to start a lame semantic discussion.)

BTW, this, boys and girls, is why you should never browse without a decent script blocker. The revenue and sustainability of ad-supported sites is secondary to your privacy - or so I believe.

Re:Not real "leaking" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41848129)

that is pretty much how tracking works. You put your identifying information in the url for the tracking pixel. From what I recall they are supposed to take the first name, categorize it as male or female and then throw it away... lord only knows who really does that and who stores everything.

Re:Not real "leaking" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41849381)

I recall a time when Yahoo mail stored the password in the URL circa 1999, probably back before they even adopted javascript. Yes, nowadays any webmail service requires it. In any case, with these urls, you'd think voting is secret. Just wait till data starts leaking outside of monetary interests, allowing malicious agents to start outing certain potential voters in some... intolerant cities.

Re:Not real "leaking" (1)

fulldecent (598482) | about a year and a half ago | (#41851891)

** If I was using a pay-for analytics suite and found that the people I'm paying were looking at my private information (tracking data) I would be pretty pissed off and might even consider legal action. TLDR: No "leaking" going on here. **

In the information world, what is leaked cannot be unleaked. Whether used or not, the information got out, this is a leak.

Re:Not real "leaking" (1)

Coolhand2120 (1001761) | about a year and a half ago | (#41853803)

My only point was that the article title implied that the campaigns, or members of the campaigns, where giving the information to third parties intentionally in nice CSV files. When people say "leak" in the context "campaign" that's what they think. This is a leak in the since that your sink has a leak, not that someone in the campaign is leaking information. The context makes a big difference. The use of the word is hyperbolic.

Of all the reasons I don't support either... (2)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about a year and a half ago | (#41847837)

Of all the reasons I don't support either candidate, of all the ways either candidate is apt to violate my privacy, this is the least.

Still, I'll add it to the list.

What's the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41849033)

If a citizen decides to give their details to the party of their choice why would they worry when that party receives the information? Could they be under the impression that their party is not the amalgamation of a dozen or so corporations?

For a democracy, this would be a story. But for a corporatocracy I just don't see the problem.

Why is it called a leak? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41849175)

Why is it called a leak?

A leak means something unintended. Like a leaky faucet, or an engine leaking oil. You don't intend for that to happen, but it does.

Or for information, a leak is when an insider betrays the organization they work for, and secretly releases confidential information to the public.

This is not a leak. This is a blatant and pre-meditated handover of information, to 3rd party organizations.

They gave out the usernames of people? Why didn't they just give out their passwords as well?

Not really leaking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41849389)

I suspect the reason they do it this way is for their emails campaigns, they also have the donation options in the query string as well. Doing it this way, you don't have to hit the database, imagine the email campaigns both parties are doing.

Security (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | about a year and a half ago | (#41850343)

This is why I only donate through my own tiny 503(c)(4), sometimes by way of a sham 501(c)(3), so it is much easier to obscure my name. Seriously, I like to support the candidates I like, but I don't necessarily want them screwing around with my contact information or bugging me at home, so I do it as anonymously as possible.

Charities Do Same Thing (1)

retroworks (652802) | about a year and a half ago | (#41850941)

If I'm not mistaken, Red Cross, CARE, Oxfam, etc. do this, in fact I'm not sure who doesn't. (Mommy, I'm tired of Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney on Slashdot.)

Well, they deserverved it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41852567)

In short: people dumb enough to donate^H^H^H^H^H^Hlose their time and effort to either of those two sockppets in a corporate reality show called "presidential campaign" have been sold like a bunch of lambs for a few bucks. Whatever.

Tips for privacy and security (1)

R3nCi (2729667) | about a year and a half ago | (#41863109)

Here [crunchbang.org] is an excellent collection of resources and tools relating to security and privacy on the internet, courtesy of Tunafish at the CrunchBang Linux discussion forums. Those who want to take a slightly more 'proactive' stance against the collection of their information should find this worthwhile reading.

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