Verified Commit 6c843237 authored by Jake Jarvis's avatar Jake Jarvis 馃惣

add webinar screenshots to BERN post

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The team behind Bernie Sanders' 2020 campaign [released a new web app](https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/bernie-sanders-2020-campaign-unveils-app-increase-its-voter-database-n999206) last month named [BERN](https://app.berniesanders.com/). The goal of BERN is simple: gather as much information as you can on as many voters in the United States as you can, and make Bernie's grassroots army of enthusiastic supporters do the work. It's undoubtedly a smart move, but also a concerning one for myself and other privacy advocates.
The team behind Bernie Sanders' 2020 campaign [released a new web app](https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/bernie-sanders-2020-campaign-unveils-app-increase-its-voter-database-n999206) last month named [BERN](https://app.berniesanders.com/). The goal of BERN is simple: to gather as much information as they can on as many voters in the United States as they can, and make their grassroots army of enthusiastic supporters do the work. It's undoubtedly a smart strategy, but also a concerning one for myself and other privacy advocates.
![](images/sad-bernie.jpg)
......@@ -37,33 +37,46 @@ But how do I know who I know, you might ask? BERN's [FAQ page](https://app.berni
> We use the word 鈥渇riend鈥 very broadly: You can add anyone you have met and known in your life to the app.
You start by searching for the voter you're (theoretically) talking to by entering his or her first name, last name, and location (which only requires entering the state but can be narrowed down by town and/or ZIP code). Every match pops up with each person's age, sex, and location along with an option to add the information of someone who's not listed or still needs to register to vote.
Using either feature, a volunteer starts with a search of the database for the voter he or she is (theoretically) talking to by entering the voter's first name, last name, and location (which only requires entering the state but can be narrowed down by town and/or ZIP code). Every match pops up with each voter's age, sex, and location along with an option to add the information of someone who鈥s not listed or still needs to register to vote.
Here's one of the instructional videos provided internally to volunteers:
{{< video mp4="images/friend-to-friend.mp4" webm="images/friend-to-friend.webm" width="250" height="450" poster="images/poster-friend-to-friend.png" >}}
...and a few privacy-related questions about the friend-to-friend feature were answered by campaign staff in a separate closed webinar for volunteers this week:
Defenders of the BERN app have pointed out that the information used is already available from public voter databases ran independently by each state. This is true. But these public records have never been tied to a campaign's internal voter files through a tool that's wide open to the entire internet, with incentives to add valuable data that benefits one candidate.
![](images/webinar-qa-1.png)
There were even unverified claims that [BERN was leaking voter ID numbers](https://info.idagent.com/blog/bern-app-exposes-150m-voter-records), which are the same as one's driver's license ID numbers in some states, through JSON responses in the first few days after its release. There don't be appear to be strict rate limits on calls to the API, either.
![](images/webinar-qa-2.png)
Defenders of the BERN app have pointed out that the information used is already available from public voter rolls maintained independently by each state. This is true. But these public records have never been tied to a campaign's internal voter files through a tool that鈥檚 wide open to the entire internet, with incentives to add valuable data that benefits one candidate.
There were even unverified claims that [BERN was leaking voter ID numbers](https://info.idagent.com/blog/bern-app-exposes-150m-voter-records), which are the same as one's driver's license ID numbers in some states, through JSON responses in the first few days after its release. There don't be appear to be strict rate limits on calls to the API either, potentially inviting malicious actors from around the world鈥 --- wink wink鈥 --- to scrape personal data on tens of millions of Americans en masse.
![](images/json-response.jpg)
Others have noted that web-based organizing tools like BERN have been used by campaigns at all levels since President Obama's well-oiled, futuristic machine in 2007. This is also true, and I'm a big fan of the trend they started.
But the latter category of databases --- like [NationBuilder](https://nationbuilder.com/) and, more notably, [NGP VAN's VoteBuilder](https://act.ngpvan.com/votebuilder) software used by almost all Democratic campaigns across the United States --- are secured and strictly guarded. Volunteer accounts need to be created and approved by paid campaign organizers and are locked down to provide the bare minimum of information necessary for one to canvass or phone bank a shortlist of voters. Every single click is also recorded in a [detailed log](sanders-campaign-audit.pdf) down to the millisecond. (This is how [Bernie's organizers got busted](http://time.com/4155185/bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton-data/) snooping around Hillary's VoteBuilder data last cycle, by the way.)
But the latter category of databases --- like [NationBuilder](https://nationbuilder.com/) and, more notably, [NGP VAN's VoteBuilder](https://act.ngpvan.com/votebuilder) software based on the Obama campaign's inventions and now used by almost all Democratic campaigns across the United States --- are secured and strictly guarded. Volunteer accounts need to be created and approved by paid campaign organizers and are locked down to provide the bare minimum amount of information necessary for one to canvass or phone bank a shortlist of voters. Every single click is also recorded in a [detailed log](sanders-campaign-audit.pdf) down to the millisecond. (This is how [Bernie's organizers got busted](http://time.com/4155185/bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton-data/) snooping around Hillary's VoteBuilder data last cycle, by the way.)
![](images/votebuilder-audit.png)
BERN is taking this to a whole new level. Allowing anybody on the internet to sign up and add personal information to the campaign's database without approval is troubling, especially when you consider the gamified "points" system they've added as an incentive to report as much information on as many people as possible.
BERN is taking this to an unprecedented level. Allowing anybody on the internet to sign up and add others' personal information to the campaign's database without their knowledge is troubling, especially when you consider the gamified "points" system they've added as an incentive to report as much information on as many people as possible.
![](images/reddit-bros.png)
In addition to the points system, it was revealed in the webinar mentioned above that the campaign is planning on giving out shiny rewards based on how many friends one adds, setting expectations at 50+ contacts to reach the 鈥淏ernie Super Bundler鈥 tier鈥娾斺妛hatever that means.
![](images/webinar-slide-1.png)
In the middle of the webinar, the organizer also paused the presentation for *fifteen minutes鈥* --- complete with a countdown clock鈥 --- 鈥奱nd told volunteers to race to add as many of their friends as possible in that time. She announced afterwards that participants added 20 to 40 friends into the app on average, with some allegedly adding close to 100 in fifteen minutes.
![](images/webinar-slide-2.png)
The [Privacy Policy link](https://berniesanders.com/privacy-policy/) at the bottom of the app links to a generic policy that looks like it's been copied from a default Wix website. There's no mention of the BERN app, no details of how they explicitly use this information, and no sign of an opt-out procedure.
The [Privacy Policy link](https://berniesanders.com/privacy-policy/) at the bottom of the app links to a generic policy that looks like it's been copied from a default Wix website. There's no mention of the BERN app, no details of how they explicitly use our information, and no sign of an opt-out procedure.
Without getting too political --- everyone who knows me already knows [what I think of Bernie](https://jarv.is/notes/millenial-with-hillary-clinton/) --- it's hard to refute that his "bros" are [notorious for harassment](https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/06/07/the-bernie-bros-are-out-in-full-force-harassing-female-reporters/?utm_term=.795f3a6a6ac9) and internet trolling. Giving them any information beyond their targets' Twitter handles is surely not going to help this time around.
Without getting too political --- everyone who knows me already knows [what I think of Bernie](https://jarv.is/notes/millenial-with-hillary-clinton/) --- it's hard to refute that his "bros" are [notorious for harassment](https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/06/07/the-bernie-bros-are-out-in-full-force-harassing-female-reporters/?utm_term=.795f3a6a6ac9) and internet trolling. Giving them any additional information beyond the Twitter handles of their targets is surely not going to help detoxify the discourse this time around.
Count me out of feeling the Bern and the BERN. Just regular old heartburn for me. 馃あ
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