Who's Been Leaking Data From the Voter Rolls?

Israelis will be able to call the Interior Ministry or send a text message starting today to confirm they appear on the voter rolls, the ministry announced yesterday. The statement sparked concerns that voter details - names, national identification numbers, addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth - could find their way into the hands of private investigators, businessmen and hackers posting the information to the Internet, as has happened in the past.

Civil rights groups view the leaking of such information as a symbol of further privacy-violating data leaks, similar to those they fear from a planned biometric database.

In a Haaretz investigation, reporter Aviva Lori has discovered that many private investigators have access to the Population Registry, of which the voter rolls are a part. One of the investigators told her it was easy to pick up compact discs storing the information from the headquarters of political parties when party operatives have been busy looking at exit polls.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said hackers had not gained access to voter rolls during the last election, although she said the information was illegally transferred "by one of the bodies that received it in accordance with the law."

The groups with legal access to the voter rolls are the political parties, which receive the data during every election campaign, but it's not clear that the parties are the only ones at fault.

Hezi Shasha, who works at the Interior Ministry's computing department, told the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee in March 2007 that databases posted online without authorization include information that does not appear on the voter rolls - meaning, he said, that "apparently it's not from the parties," or at least not just from the parties.

As for the 2009 voter rolls, Hadad said each file has certain markings to make it possible to trace, and take action against, the data leaker. But of course, the authorities have to want to do so.