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E-Deceptive Campaign Practices: Elections 2.0

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e-Deceptive Campaign Practices: Elections 2.0

Tutorial Summary

The Electronic Privacy Information Center organized a tutorial at CFP 2008 to explore technologyâ€™s use in the 2008 Election season. The report on E-Deceptive Campaign Practices: Internet Technology & Democracy 2.0 was published in October 2008. A law and policy report on the same topic was simultaneously released by Common Cause with the assistance of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The rise of political participation is attracting the attention of those who would use these technologies in positive and negative ways. Deception of voters can include: reliability of voting systems, voter registration status, polling location information, and positions of candidates for public office. Political fundraising efforts are also vulnerable to pharming and phishing efforts to dupe supporters into sending contributions to thieves.


  • Tova Wang Common Cause (Moderator) is a nationally known expert on election reform and political participation, is Vice President of Research at Common Cause where she focuses on voting rights, campaign finance and media reform. Prior to joining Common Cause she was Democracy Fellow at The Century Foundation. She is co-author of the Report on Voter Fraud and Voter Intimidation for the United States Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency, which received international and national press attention. She was the Executive Director of The Century Foundation's Post-2004 Election Reform Working Group, comprised of many of the preeminent election law scholars in the country. In 2001, she was staff person to the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former Presidents Carter and Ford, of which The Century Foundation was a co-sponsor. She is the author of several election reform reports, and her commentary on this subject has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, National Journal, USA Today, national Associated Press reports, The Nation, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, New York Daily News, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Minneapolis Star Tribune, The American Prospect, and Campaigns and Elections, among many other media outlets. She has frequently appeared on national radio and television, including C-Spanâ€™s Washington Journal, MSNBC, NBC, and NPR. She has been a featured speaker at a number of national election reform conferences and forums and provided her expertise to members of Congress and state legislators. Ms. Wang is an attorney and 1996 graduate of New York University School of Law, and a magna cum laude graduate of Barnard College of Columbia University.

  • Lillie Coney, EPIC. Lillie Coney (Panel Organizer) is Associate Director with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in Washington, DC. She is the Public Policy Coordinator for the National Committee for Voting Integrity (NCVI), and has testified before the Election Assistance Commission. She served on the Brennan Center Taskforces on the Security and Usability of Voting Systems. She also served as a member of the ACM Committee on Guidelines for Implementation of Voter Registration Databases. She participated as a contributor in the academic paper "Towards a Privacy Measurement Criterion for Voting Systems." She has written several law journal articles on voting, and contributed to the development of the Election Incident Reporting System. She is a contributor to the New York Times Best Seller, 50 Ways to Love Your Country. She serves in an advisory capacity to several organizations, which include Verified Voting, ACCURATE, Voting System Performance Rating, and Open Voting Consortium. She is also on the board of Computing Professionals for Social Responsibility.

  • Jenigh J. Garrett, joined the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) as Assistant Counsel in October 2005 and works in the area of political participation. Jenigh litigates voting rights cases on behalf of African Americans and other under-served communities and played a lead role in LDF's educational and legislative efforts in support of the 2006 renewal of the Voting Rights Act. Jenigh also monitors the impact of restrictive voter identification requirements on communities of color, provides comments to the Department of Justice on voting changes that will have an adverse impact on minority voters in jurisdictions covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, monitors redistricting reform issues throughout the country, litigates cases on behalf of minorities barred from the political process because of burdensome election administration laws, and is spearheading LDF's voter preparedness and Election Day voter protection efforts.

  • John Aristotle Phillips co-founded Aristotle in 1983 and has since served as Chairman of the board of directors. From September 1999 to date, Mr. Phillips has served as Aristotle's Chief Executive Officer, and from January 1983 to September 1999, Mr. Phillips served as company President. Mr. Phillips graduated from Princeton University in 1978 with a bachelors in science degree in aerospace engineering. While at Princeton, Mr. Phillips received international recognition for his design, from publicly available documents, of an atomic bomb. He is the co-author of Mushroom: the Story of the A-Bomb Kid, which was sold to a television network for a made for television movie. John Phillips is the brother of Dean Phillips, Aristotle's President. ArAristotle is the largest non-partisan supplier of campaign technology to elected officials, candidates and advocacy organizations in the US. The company also manages elections and provides election integrity services in Europe, Asia and South America. Most members of the US House and Senate utilize Aristotle services, and every resident of the White House since 1980 has been an Aristotle client.

  • Ruchi Bhowmik serves as legislative counsel to Senator Barack Obama. She handles issues ranging from privacy and civil liberties to homeland security and intelligence. She joined Senator Obama's office when he joined the Senate in 2005 and previously handled privacy issues for Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. In that position, she worked on legislation eliminating the Total Information Awareness program and providing Congressional oversight for government datamining, and pursuing privacy protections in the CAPPS II program, now known as Secure Flight. She is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Virginia School of Law.

Detailed description

Elections are communication centric endeavors. The application of digital communication technology coupled with the benefit of the Internet, cell phones, and other personal digital communication devices creates a 24-hour stream of data that can be tailored to the interests of individual voters.

The rise of political participation by millions of individuals who can be engaged in the election process is also attracting the attention of those who would use these technologies to misdirect or misinform voters regarding such matters as: polling location information, status of voter registrations, and positions of candidates for public office. Further, technology's use in public elections can facilitate pharming and phishing efforts to dupe supporters into sending contributions to thieves and more.

The tutorial will explore a range of topics on how technology can be used in public elections to the benefit or detriment of voters. The range of topics to be discussed include a review of the benefits of technology to better inform and engage voters and how election officials, the media, voters, and opposing sides in public elections might better arm themselves for a positive democratic experience.

  • Ways in which new technology may bring deceptive practices on-line
  1. Use of data mining to profile and target voters and email them misinformation/ deceptive spam email
  2. Compressing the timeline for launching disinformation and misinformation attacks from days to hours or minutes.
  3. Setting up websites that sound official but that are fake and provide misinformation, such as sites for the Secretary of State or local election official
  4. Denial of Service Attacks against legitimate sites. Also could include lapse of domain registration and hosting agreements
  5. Re-routing accurate website addresses to false websites Corrupting RSS Feeds, (Pharming and Phishing attacks that misdirect voters from deceptive e-mail posing as legitimate election official communications.
  6. Using â€œtypo domainsâ€ to create false websites with misinformation
  7. Text messaging misinformation, and cell phone messages (GPS features)
  8. Using Voice Over IP (VoIP) calls or botnet based calls to spread misinformation
  • Groups that may be targeted
  1. Young people
  2. Voters with obvious political leanings based on their online or offline activity
  3. Not traditionally disenfranchised groups
  • Why deceptive practices online may be more difficult to trace and the perpetrators more difficult to apprehend
  1. History of the Internet
  2. How it Works: Physical Space v. Cyberspace
  3. Communication and the Internet
  4. Security Challenges
  • Potential technological means to combat these acts
  1. To target people for these attacks voter registration records are important
  2. Web pages, RSS Feeds, and maybe a U-Tube Video on the threat
  3. Public Awareness
  • . The state of the law covering these types of acts
  1. Voting laws
  2. Criminal laws, e.g. cyber crime,
  3. Civil liability, e.g. for providers
  4. SPAM
  5. Computer Crimes trespass, spyware, malicious activity

Background Resources

Discussions and Feeds

Working Draft of e-Deceptive Campaign Practices 2008 Report



cfp08 elections2.0