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posted by martyb on Saturday December 26 2015, @10:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the something-there-is-that-doesn't-love-a-wall dept.

As you probably already know, Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign was involved in some recent hijinks involving improper access to campaign data from the Hillary Clinton campaign, after a buggy software patch applied by the contractor maintaining the Democratic Party's voter database, NGPVAN, inadvertently opened a data firewall. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) suspended the Sanders' campaign access to Democratic voter lists (a subscription that the campaign had paid for); Sanders responded by suing the DNC; after a brief negotiation, the DNC restored the Sanders campaign access; and Sanders apologized to Clinton for the hack in Saturday night's debate. Clinton accepted the apology, and noted that most Americans don't care anyway.

Present company (possibly) excepted. Veteran Democratic campaign consultant David Atkins, who evidently has hands on experience using the software in question, pieced together what he thinks happened; including useful background on NGPVAN's software and its use by the Democratic party.

Atkins' bottom line:

As it turns out the ethical breach by Sanders operatives was massive, but the actual data discovery was limited. So it made sense and was fairly obvious that the DNC would quickly end up giving the campaign back its NGPVAN access—particularly since failing to do so would be a death sentence for the campaign and a gigantic black eye to the party.

Atkins also had some choice words for DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, agreeing with David Axelrod (Obama's former chief campaign strategist) that the DNC overreacted.

DNC CEO Amy Dacey blogged that the suspension of access to Sanders wasn't punitive:

This action was not taken to punish the Sanders campaign — it was necessary to ensure that the Sanders campaign took appropriate steps to resolve the issue and wasn't unfairly using another campaign's data.


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by quixote on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:25PM

    by quixote (4355) on Saturday December 26 2015, @02:25PM (#281191)

    However, the access logs do show that Sanders staff pulled not one but multiple lists—not searches, but lists—a fact that shows intent to export and use. And the lists were highly sensitive material. News reports have indicated that the data was “sent to personal folders” of the campaign staffers—but those refer to personal folders within NGPVAN, which are near useless without the ability to export the data locally.

    Even without being able to export, however, merely seeing the topline numbers of, say, how many voters the Clinton campaign had managed to bank as “strong yes” votes would be a valuable piece of oppo. While it’s not the dramatic problem that a data export would have been, it’s undeniable that the Sanders campaign gleaned valuable information from the toplines alone. It’s also quite clear that most of the statements the Sanders campaign made as the story progressed—from the claim that the staffers only did it to prove the security breach, or that only one staffer had access—were simply not true. It’s just not clear at this point whether the campaign’s comms people knew the truth and lied, or whether they were not being told the whole truth by the people on the data team who were still making up stories and excuses to cover their tracks. I suspect the latter. ...

    This doesn’t mean that Wasserman-Schultz hasn’t, in David Axelrod’s words, been putting her thumb on the scale on behalf of the Clinton campaign. She clearly has been, ...

    Still, the Sanders camp’s reactions have been laughable. It was their team that unethically breached Clinton’s data. It was their comms people who spoke falsely about what happened. The Sanders campaign wasn’t honeypotted into doing it—their people did it of their own accord. NGPVAN isn’t set up to benefit Clinton at Sanders’ expense—and if the violation by the campaigns had been reversed, Sanders supporters would have been claiming a conspiracy from sunrise to sundown.

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  • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Monday December 28 2015, @02:41PM

    by urza9814 (3954) on Monday December 28 2015, @02:41PM (#281690) Journal

    It was their team that unethically breached Clinton’s data.

    This is the biggest problem in all the articles covering this incident. How do you "breach" something which you have been given access to from the owner? If I hand you a key to my house, I can't really claim "breaking and entering" if you use that key to get in...

    Sanders didn't hack NGP VAN; NGP VAN hacked themselves. Unfortunately, much like patents, our society doesn't recognize negligence when you add the phrase "...with a computer"!