Friday, February 13, 2015

Jeb Bush and the WEB: When a Presidential Campaign team publishes voters’ private information for public consumption

Keywords or Terms: Gov. Jeb Bush; Florida Department of State; Donor’s List; Presidential Campaign WEBSITE; USA; Privacy; Civil Rights; “Right to be left Alone”; World Wide Web (WWW); Email; Internet marauders; Innocent donors; Federal Trade Commission; Rogue Employees; Long-term implications; Power of the Privileged; Big Data; Sony Movie WEBSITE; and, Social Security Accounts Medicaid and Medicare Accounts

Eight years after serving as Governor of the State of Florida, 2016 Presidential aspirant Jeb Bush made available on the WEB, emails and social security numbers of Floridians and probably others without their consent. Ooops…Neanderthals are about to take over the campaign process somewhere in America! On political parlance assessment, a former banker, Roman-Catholic Episcopalian, committed an egregious sin in a bid to raise funds for a presidential ambition and campaign.  Yet attempts to get the brother of a former President to see what invasion of privacy and civil rights this is, only met this response: “Email kept me connected to Floridians and focused on the mission of being their governor.”

As if this elaborate relapse in judgment is justifiable, one of his political campaign spokesperson writes: “This is an exact replica of the public records on file with Florida Department of State and is available at anyone’s request under Chapter 119 sunshine laws. Regarding exempt personal identifying information, the Florida Department of State or the Executive of the Governor can share more background on exemption under Florida Statute and the state’s process for [sic]” Really? Is Jeb Bush still the governor of the State of Florida; and, does this law apply to the whole nation. Is Jeb Bush running for the governorship of Florida this time around or the Presidency of the greatest nation on earth, the United States of America?

Prior to bringing down this information from the politician’s campaign WEBSITE, the Presidential aspirant probably thought it was prudent to harvest more campaign funds anyway possible, even at expense of his benevolent? Can we trust this person to develop a team of political advisers and policymakers who respect and appreciate citizen’s privacy, civil rights and liberties? Efforts to prevent this type of error in judgment by other candidates make us visit the issues of privacy and civil rights and what they mean and connote.

II. Privacy and Civil Rights

Under Federal Law, one’s personal information is protected from public scrutiny, including information on dates of birth, social security number, race, national origin, and a host other demographic information. Although not directly drawn from the US Constitution, some amendments have provided protection of privacy for all Americans and Permanent Residents. Escaping from what former US Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (1916 to 1939) referred to as the “right to be left alone” is probably not the first preference here for this campaign team. Apparently, Jeb Bush’s campaign fund raisers do not want any part of leaving folks alone; and, would rather subject the private information of potential donors to the vagaries of intrusions by Internet marauders. In this damning decision, Jeb Bush’s Presidential ambition seems to exceed any privacy protection that his donors have; and this is rather telling of the lack of control that is probably running amok within the infant campaign team.

Violation of America’s privacy has risen with the expansiveness of the World Wide Web. America’s difficulties with invasion of privacy have just been compounded with the release of donor’s personal information on a candidate’s campaign universal resource locator. Federal Trade Commission has problems with people or candidates who chose to release people’s personal information without their consent and would probably call out Jeb Bush’s campaign team, if anyone affected files a grievance with the office. Further, the random availability of citizen’s information on the WEB, made possible by hackers and misguided computer geeks, has long been a problem. Many financial institutions and organizations have had their registry compromised and network fences penetrated. Personal information of innocent donors could be harvested, sold or offered as means of blackmail, courtesy of a former Floridian governor and 2016 presidential aspirant. All these observations are what any candidate attempting to become the president of this nation, must be conversant with.

Probably in the opinion of the Presidential aspirant Jeb Bush, nothing unethical happened here? The fact that one member of his team saw it fit to broadcast personal information of people the campaign seeks to benefit from, makes the decision, an error in judgment. However, the aspirant was willing to take the private information down a little while after the press got wind of the misjudgment or slack. Blaming the ineptitudes of WEB Masters is often a route to take; however, in this instance, the candidate, perhaps out of awareness of the long-term implication of the misconduct or violation of privacy, found a more graceful way to opt out. Should affected parties forgo this invasion of privacy, they may become exposed to the risk of having their compromised personal data used for illegitimacy. Should they scorn at the potential implication of future releases of other associated information that may expose the donors to other risks? This is probably up to the individuals affected. What is probably certain as of now is that: “there is the possibility of personal donors’ data or future donors’ being shared with other party’s entities to help generate campaign funds for the election of a presidential candidate who seems hardly prepared for big-time national stage contest?

Americans must rid themselves of acceptance of violation of their civil rights by those who choose to lead them. We should be concerned with behavior of presidential aspirants who show less concern for our civil rights at the expense of their dreams and ambition. The 1964 Civil Rights Law and subsequent amendments in 1972 and onward, guarantee citizen’s rights to be free of unequal treatment on protected characteristics, race, gender, religion, national origin, disability and more. This law seeks an active citizenry who understands the place of their civil rights in national discourse. When an aspirant chooses to share demographic information regarding you with others, whom you probably have no connection with but may end up doing someday, that individual has chosen to conduct his affairs in ways that run afoul of your protected civil rights. We must lessen the power of the privileged to undermine our protected rights, even on instance of release of demographic information that are hardly authorized. We must lessen the degree of tolerance of misbehavior that are generally brushed aside as inconsequential. We must demand of our leaders, accountability and set a threshold of tolerance only limited by individual oversight. Above all, we must submit to the same yard stick that we use to measure our leaders and actively condemn behaviors that run afoul of our laws.

The release of personal information, including citizens’ social security number on an aspirants WEBSITE is instructive. At the end of the campaign season, what happens to this information? What happens if a rogue campaign aid uses this type of information for mischievous purposes? Potential human and financial consequence of the release of very pertinent information about donors may not be underestimated. Criticisms of other operational activities of a campaign team may seem uncalled for and this article may just be raising unnecessary euphoria; however, visit with someone who’s had his or her identity stolen and you will appreciate the need for concern in an instance as this. Although no one can determine what ends up happening in the age of Big Data to information collected about an individual political donor, betting anywhere across the nation that this type of information are not sold away to marketers, is a sure loss or misgiving. Once the national election is over, political aspirants have the choice to pass on this valuable information to others who may be willing to use it for other nefarious activities. The revelation last year that the Sony Movie WEBSITE was compromised and the subsequent pseudo-crisis that initially led to the cancellation of release of the movie in theaters across the nation, should tell citizens who’ve had their identities and social security numbers released, a thing or two, on the larger implication of the erroneous judgment of this campaign team.

What now? Hopefully, not much will happen in the near term- since the candidate has pulled down these personal demographics from his WEBSITE. But what of the period in which the data stayed opened to everyone? What redemption, if any, is probable? Much will depend on future activities within Jeb Bush’s campaign team: the possible action of a rouge campaign member or anyone in possession of this information may determine the future losses of those on the list. May the campaign team be held accountable for future adverse activities on the accounts of those on the list, credit cards’ account, social security accounts, hospital or Medicaid records? Probably yes; however, no one can tell. It is an excruciating case of wait and see! Just as the results of elections have consequences; so thus the release of personal information of political donors on an aspirant’s WEBSITE.
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