In one of the world’s oldest modern democracies, the United States, the right to privacy seems to be taken less and less seriously.
Last year, after merely taking on the role of US President, Donald Trump signed an executive order threatening the 6-month-old EU-US Privacy Shield agreement. In March this year, Internet Service Providers got the green light to sell users’ web history. August could see the end of American net neutrality.
Now, the (extremely, we would say) sensitive personal details relating to almost 200 million US citizens have been accidentally exposed by a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee. According to bbc.com, the 1.1 terabytes of data includes birth dates, home addresses, telephone numbers and political views of nearly 62% of the entire US population.
What’s worse, the data was available on a publicly accessible Amazon cloud server. Thus, absolutely anyone with the link could access the data.
The information was stored in spreadsheets uploaded to a server owned by Deep Root Analytics. It had last been updated in January when President Donald Trump was inaugurated and had been online for an unknown period of time.
“We take full responsibility for this situation. Based on the information we have gathered thus far, we do not believe that our systems have been hacked,” Deep Root Analytics’ founder Alex Lundry told technology website Gizmodo.
Apart from personal details, the data also included citizens’ suspected religious affiliations, ethnicities and political biases, such as where they stood on controversial topics like gun control, the right to abortion and stem cell research.
The information seems to have been collected from a wide range of sources – from posts on controversial banned threads on the social network Reddit, to committees that raised funds for the Republican Party.
The file names and directories indicated that the data was meant to be used by influential Republican political organisations. The idea was to try to create a profile on as many voters as possible using all available data, so some of the fields in the spreadsheets were left left empty if an answer could not be found.
What we can learn from this data breach
First of all, we should all be more careful with the private information we reveal about ourselves. Some things, like our religious and political views, are better kept private and we should only reveal them to those we really we really trust. Social media is probably not the right place to express our deepest beliefs, because even if we think that we are protected by a carefully created alter ego, our true identity can be very easily found out.
Secondly, if we choose to / have to disclose personal details about ourselves, it’s best to make sure no ill-intentioned third-party has access to them. The best way to stay private online is by using a VPN with tradition and proven efficiency (just check the reviews provided by the most trusted tech publications and websites), such as CyberGhost VPN, which can be used on iOS, Android and Windows platforms.
CyberGhost replaces your IP with one of its own, thus rendering you anonymous online. Over 10 million users have tried and tested this product, download it for free and start protecting your private data!