Super Tuesday sees millions of voters across the U.S. turn out to cast a vote for their presidential preference, a pivotal moment in the 2020 election timeline. As voters in Massachusetts head to the polls, they will be casting their votes on paper ballots. Here, paper ballots are not only a tradition, but a safeguard to ensure individual voter privacy and the integrity of the election.
When voters in Massachusetts return to the polls in November to vote for the next president, they will be using those secure paper ballots to decide another data privacy and cybersecurity issue: the ballot question on driving data.
This question is framed as “updating” a law implemented in 2012 that requires auto manufacturers to provide vehicle owners and independent repair facilities access to all necessary information to diagnose and repair a vehicle. In reality, the ballot question would “update” the existing law the same way electronic ballots are an “upgrade” over paper ballots: it is unnecessary and less secure.
We see time and time again how susceptible technology is to be hacked and tampered with. Recently, the Iowa caucus shook the public’s confidence in technology use in the electoral process. The mobile app, made by a firm called Shadow, was designed to help precinct chairs send the results to the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters but, due to technical issues and operational delays, volunteers were unable to properly use the app. There was not a hack per se, but the malfunctions of the app undermined the confidence in the election and in cybersecurity measures.
If innovative technology used in institutional practices – like elections – can fall apart at the worst possible moments, or potentially be tampered with, it is inevitable that other industries – like the auto industry – are susceptible to critical failures or interference. Now think about how many more people drive than vote (or don’t think about it too much – it can get frustrating real quick – Go Vote!).
Nothing in the proposed driving data ballot question limits how much information anyone can view, or what they can do with it. Some of the potential consequences could include higher insurance rates, extremely targeted advertising, or even dangerous stalking situations – all based on what strangers see when you don’t even know you’re being watched. What’s more, the ballot question allows for two-way access, leaving your vehicle susceptible to being taken over by a stranger, remotely.
Just as the FBI, State Department and others warned yesterday that everyone should be vigilant on Super Tuesday, so should voters be vigilant on Election Day in November. Before you vote, think about the hidden dangers and unintended consequences of every ballot question, especially those that will make your personal information, your location, or even control of your vehicle readily accessible to bad actors.