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are they matched to the access code and do you keep a record of what code is mailed to what person?
February 28, 2006 2:36 PM   Subscribe

So if you run the CD in your personal computer, by the end of it, the Minnesota GOP will not only know what you think on particular issues, but also who you are. --a cd being sent out to home by the Minnesota GOP is polling people who use the cd, sending their personal info, including name, address, and phone, among other info, back to party headquarters. No privacy policy or statement identifying what the cd does is visible anywhere: ...As far as I could tell, nothing tells you that the answers are about to be e-mailed or otherwise transmitted to the Minnesota GOP. So you finish, and then the phone rings. "Hello, Mr/Mrs. Voters, it's Joe and I notice you support gun control and the marriage amendment, would you like to donate some money to us?" That might startle the person who may have thought he/she was viewing the presentation in the privacy of the computer room. ...
posted by amberglow (80 comments total)

 
$100 says the characterization in the story/FPP is not accurate.
posted by dios at 2:48 PM on February 28, 2006


is there some kind of conflict of interest here?
posted by phaedon at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2006


Just to be clear, the reporter got a preview copy, without the final packaging. According to the party rep, the packaging included when the disk is released to the public on Friday will make clear that the disk phones home.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:50 PM on February 28, 2006


Sweet. Do I win $100?
posted by dios at 2:51 PM on February 28, 2006


I don't put things in my mouth not knowing what they are made of and what they do. The same concept applies to putting discs into my computer; they call it "common sense."
posted by mrblondemang at 2:51 PM on February 28, 2006


The hive mind is of dangerous design.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 2:54 PM on February 28, 2006


dios wins!

WWPPS?
posted by mischief at 2:57 PM on February 28, 2006


I'll put pretty much anything into my mouth.

It's why I'm so popular with the LADIES. Um, and the gents.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:58 PM on February 28, 2006


According to the party rep, the packaging included when the disk is released to the public on Friday will make clear that the disk phones home.

That's not so--"The cd's packaging will make clear that the cd is interactive in nature." That doesn't mean phoning home. Interactive only means you do something and something happens. Like pushing a button to vote in polls. It does not mean that the state GOP will have your answers and personal info as a result. Nor did he say "The cd's packaging will make clear that your personal information will be transmitted to the Minnesota GOP headquarters."
posted by amberglow at 3:19 PM on February 28, 2006


Provided that they do include a privacy notice in the final release (as they are required by law, presumably), this is nothing more than smart marketing.

First the magic patent number story expose, and now this. What a day to be a conspiracy buff!
posted by Pontius Pilate at 3:20 PM on February 28, 2006


Q: So by interactive in nature, do you mean the results are being reported back to the GOP and, if so, are they identified by the access code?

A: Yes.
"Interactive" was the word that the party rep used. It's not clear how the disk will be described on the final packaging, because this reporter doesn't say and apparently the disk won't be released until the end of the week. I doubt that the packaging will simply describe its operation as "interactive," but maybe we should wait and see when the disk is actually released.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:24 PM on February 28, 2006


Do you really think that the guy's offhand comment that it is "interactive" was the complete, full, and final description of the product?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:28 PM on February 28, 2006


MINNESOTA GOP GET OUT OF MY MIND
posted by brain_drain at 3:29 PM on February 28, 2006


Meh. Why would someone enter his or her real name, address, and phone number into something like that?
posted by fandango_matt at 3:32 PM on February 28, 2006


My preliminary conclusion, based on my legal experience: the $100 goes to dios.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:32 PM on February 28, 2006


You get a mystery cd in the mail, you put it in your computer and cheerfully answer a bunch of intrusive political questions? If you're that dumb, you're probably already on a GOP supporters list somewhere.
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:35 PM on February 28, 2006


This is how the the party classifies it (if it's the same disk): State Republican Chairman Ron Carey said the party's statewide mailing of several hundred thousand DVDs will target districts of DFL senators who he said have blocked putting the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

I'm willing to bet money they don't say on the packaging that the disk communicates your info to the party.
posted by amberglow at 3:38 PM on February 28, 2006


Well, each of you send me $100, and I'll hold it in escrow until we can get our hands on a disk.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:42 PM on February 28, 2006


And by escrow, I mean that I will treat myself to a nice meal of sushi and sake.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:43 PM on February 28, 2006


So in other words, amberglow, this whole story is bullshit speculation from the least impartial observer on this website?
posted by dios at 3:44 PM on February 28, 2006


"If you're that dumb, you're probably already on a GOP supporters list somewhere..."

... or registered as something other than independent.

The real question is: "Will jessamyn edit this FPP to reflect the inaccuracies?"
posted by mischief at 3:50 PM on February 28, 2006


Trust the GOP to pretend that invading your computer is a good idea.

This is nothing more than the first step toward the Bush regime's eventual goal of monitoring every key stroke of every computer; but only to protect the children and stop terrorism, of course.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:51 PM on February 28, 2006


the Bush regime's eventual goal of monitoring every key stroke of every computer

What on earth would be the point of that? Seriously.
posted by JekPorkins at 3:58 PM on February 28, 2006


I'd say that your irony meter needs an adjustment , Jek.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:05 PM on February 28, 2006


monju_bosatsu writes "Just to be clear, the reporter got a preview copy, without the final packaging. According to the party rep, the packaging included when the disk is released to the public on Friday will make clear that the disk phones home."

Oh fucking come on. You're a lawyer (or at least a law student) so you can read. What the article actually mentions is this quote from the GOP rep:

"On Friday, the cd will be released to the public. The cd's packaging will make clear that the cd is interactive in nature. "

This is pretty fucking far from "making it clear that the disk phones home."

monju_bosatsu writes "Do you really think that the guy's offhand comment that it is 'interactive' was the complete, full, and final description of the product?"

So you assume, with absolutely no facts to back it up, that the "warning" will be more complete? You can't be serious.
posted by clevershark at 4:09 PM on February 28, 2006


I'm pretty sure there are broad assumptions being made on all sides of this thread. And as we all know, when you make assumptions, you make an ass of u and mptions.
posted by JekPorkins at 4:12 PM on February 28, 2006


What the article actually mentions is this quote from the GOP rep: "On Friday, the cd will be released to the public. The cd's packaging will make clear that the cd is interactive in nature."

And then, as I quoted above, he clarified what he meant by "interactive."

So you assume, with absolutely no facts to back it up, that the "warning" will be more complete? You can't be serious.

I didn't assume anything. I simply pointed out that there is plenty of reason based on the linked article to think that the warning might be more complete. However, the CD hasn't been released to the public yet, so no one here knows what the packaging will or will not say. Why don't we wait until it is released before criticizing?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:15 PM on February 28, 2006


Metafilter: this whole story is bullshit speculation from the least impartial observer on this website
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:15 PM on February 28, 2006


So i don't get why tactics like this (realized or imagined) are always the work of the GOP. It's always been my perception that the progressives on the left would be the one's more suited to using technology to these ends. Not my parents party with their computer solitaire games and 28.8k modems and whatnot. Does anyone else see the disparity in this aside from the obvious ethical arguments?
posted by cusack at 4:16 PM on February 28, 2006


I certainly agree that we are mostly just speculating here. But then again speculating that the GOP party machine would do something sleazy, unethical and/or borderline illegal is hardly a big speculation. Merely par for the course.
posted by dopeypanda at 4:17 PM on February 28, 2006


Don't hate the playa, hate the game.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:23 PM on February 28, 2006


If the user interface itself doesn't ask "May we report blah blah blah" or at least "Dialing Phone..." then I think it's fair to say that This Is A Bad Thing. But if this is the case, whether it was intended to be sneaky or the developer is just an idiot is unknown.

However, if a liberal PAC or a Dem made these DVDs and mailed them out to people and it worked the same way, do you think amberglow would be outraged? Not me.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:30 PM on February 28, 2006


I certainly agree that we are mostly just speculating here. But then again speculating that the GOP party machine would do something sleazy, unethical and/or borderline illegal is hardly a big speculation. Merely par for the course.

So it isn't even news. Thus it sucks even as a sucky NewsFilter post.
posted by macrone at 4:32 PM on February 28, 2006


Why wouldn't he be? I certainly would be.
posted by dopeypanda at 4:32 PM on February 28, 2006


Interactive only means you do something and something happens.
Quote of the day.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:47 PM on February 28, 2006


man this is an awesome thread. I predict that it'll get even awesomer.
posted by shmegegge at 4:48 PM on February 28, 2006


Yeah, the east coast happy hour crowd oughta be gettin' home any minute now.
posted by mischief at 4:55 PM on February 28, 2006


It's always been my perception that the progressives on the left would be the one's more suited to using technology to these ends.

Yeah, but the money's better on the GOP side, so who do you think the Libertarian programmers will want to work for?
posted by mkhall at 5:50 PM on February 28, 2006


On a side note: So, why are they sending out DVDs, and not CDs? It seems there is a much wider adoption of CDs (virtually all personal computers, I'd thnk), less so for DVDs, and the darn thing can't contain so much data that the storage capacity of a DVD is needed, I'd think.
posted by tippiedog at 6:54 PM on February 28, 2006


posted by cusack So i don't get why tactics like this (realized or imagined) are always the work of the GOP. It's always been my perception that the progressives on the left would be the one's more suited to using technology to these ends.

Think of the target audience: dumb people who vote Republican. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:51 PM on February 28, 2006


I would never insert any DVD/CD that arrived from a foreign source unless I had ordered it. Or, I suppose, if I was using my Linux partition at the time, and wanted a good laugh.

This doesn't even make sense. The people who would use the damn thing will be people who are already voting GOP anyway, and it's not as though the politicians actually care what that demographic wants except insofar as is required for maintenance of party loyalty.

Hm. I guess I just answered my own question.
posted by voltairemodern at 8:21 PM on February 28, 2006


However, if a liberal PAC or a Dem made these DVDs and mailed them out to people and it worked the same way, do you think amberglow would be outraged? Not me.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:30 PM EST on February 28 [!]


I do.

There is nothing partisan about calling out a possible misdeed. But hey, let's complain about how partisan MetaFilter is by being making accusations of partisanship. It's fun. And we can make bets too!
posted by juiceCake at 8:29 PM on February 28, 2006


I will LOL if they accidently send a virus with the DVD.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:05 PM on February 28, 2006




...What's worse, the information is on an unsecured Web site. I'm not going to tell you what site we found it on (until it's been secured), just to let you know that the data is there. And it can be found by anyone who can decompile the program on the CD.

Is this the normal path of data? "Amazingly stupid" is how one expert characterized the lack of security, ...

posted by amberglow at 9:20 PM on February 28, 2006


Wow, I guess I should have added amazingly incompetent to "sleazy, unethical and/or borderline illegal". But I suppose that is also par for the course.
posted by dopeypanda at 9:31 PM on February 28, 2006


So...let's see.

The jack-booted thugs running the GOP pull yet another stunt that would have Orwell rolling over in his grave, and criticism of such an irredeemably stupid tactic is seen as somehow partisan?

Any Party behaving in such an intrusive manner would be roundly excoriated.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:58 PM on February 28, 2006


Ethereal Bligh : "However, if a liberal PAC or a Dem made these DVDs and mailed them out to people and it worked the same way, do you think amberglow would be outraged? Not me."

Well, I dunno, what was amberglow's position on the Sony debacle? Because, if this article is accurate on Friday, this is a considerably worse breach of privacy. No matter who's doing it, it's dishonest and underhanded.

I think the real question is, how will this article affect the finished "product"? Do they have time to change the packaging or add disclaimers, or even secure the website?
posted by graventy at 1:26 AM on March 1, 2006


Meh, It probably won't run on a Macintosh.
posted by Gungho at 4:27 AM on March 1, 2006


Tell ya what Dios - post your name, number, address, Social Security number, and bank account info and I'll be sure to make the $100 deposit.

Just 4 you.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:39 AM on March 1, 2006


this is nothing more than smart marketing.

Yup. The marketing message is "We in the Minnesota GOP respect the spirit of the 4th ammenment."
posted by rough ashlar at 5:41 AM on March 1, 2006


It's always been my perception that the progressives on the left would be the one's more suited to using technology to these ends.

Perhaps you overestimate the desire of "the left" to actually have political power? Look at how the show is being run, is the actions of Al Gore and John Kerry the actions of people who WANT power vs 'sure, I'll accept power'.

Perhaps you were not paying attention to the news:
"From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password."

Remember that? From the boston globe report? The GOP (ok, some memberes, there feel better?) has a history of getting caught at computer snoop'n.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:50 AM on March 1, 2006


amberglow, thanks for the update. I really don't have a problem with collecting the data, as long as there is a warning on the package; we can only speculate right now about that issue. But, if you are going to collect the data, you sure as hell better keep the data secure in a professional way, which doesn't seem to be happening.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:15 AM on March 1, 2006


Further update: looks like the subcontractor is making security changes to the site.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:22 AM on March 1, 2006


I think that's only because this guy brought it to their attention, monju. They earlier said they were going to alert them.

This is interesting: ...there is a Terms of Use on this CD, one to which you must agree in order to get it to function. However, the contents are for the protection of the vendor (no decompiling, reservation of copyright etc., and a mention that the user is responsible for any damage caused by any downloads as a result of running the program). There is no mention of data collection and transmission. ...
posted by amberglow at 7:27 AM on March 1, 2006


I think that's only because this guy brought it to their attention, monju. They earlier said they were going to alert them.

Oh, I'm not denying that. I just think it's a separate issue from the data collection itself. Even with the limited terms of use to which this guy had access, he didn't have any of the literature or final packaging that will accompany it. Again, I'm not saying that there will be a warning, I'm just saying that on that issue, unlike the data storage issue, it's too early to tell.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:32 AM on March 1, 2006


Don't the Terms of Use have to say those things, legally? Aren't there laws about that? Isn't that why there's so much fine print in them? see this section here, for just one example: Confidentiality and Transmissions over the Internet
posted by amberglow at 7:45 AM on March 1, 2006


I think there must be a warning regarding the transmission of confidential information, but I'm not sure it must be in the Terms of Use. In fact, many products and services have Privacy Policies separate from the Terms of Use, and while they might overlap, they might not. This guy admitted he didn't have the whole package, and therefore might be missing some of the documentation. Again, I'm not defending MN-GOP, I'm just saying it's too early to tell.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:52 AM on March 1, 2006


The fricking thing isn't finished yet!

Do you realize how asinine it is that you are bitching about something that isn't finished yet? You haven't seen it. Nor is it done. You are complaining that some verbiage isn't in a final product when you haven't seen it and you don't know what it will finally look at or whether certain things will be in there.

This whole issue is nothing more than bullshit speculation from your part that you are trying to turn into some great crisis of illegality.

What do you have so invested in this that drives to grasp so hard to try to make this into a big deal?
posted by dios at 7:58 AM on March 1, 2006


dios, I think you're the one making this a big deal. I just made a post, and am asking questions--you're the one who's frothing at the mouth and sputtering with rage, dios.

I expect this shit, and am not at all surprised--i don't need to make it anything it's not--i know how they operate. Spying on Democratic member's computers in Congress for 2 years told me all i needed to know, for just one example. That GOP guy in jail in New England for jamming phones during a campaign too.
posted by amberglow at 8:02 AM on March 1, 2006


amber, I think it's unfair to tar the MN-GOP with the unsavory actions of other political operatives. You have no reason to think that these particular Republicans have hatched a nefarious plot to steal confidential information and post it to an unsecured website, all the while smoking $100 bills and eating babies. I think you overestimate people's malicious intent, particularly when there's more than enough incompetence to go around.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:06 AM on March 1, 2006


I think it's foolish to give them any benefit of the doubt, given the party's track record. I think trusting them is wholly unwarranted, given the specific facts already unearthed in this case, and the actions of the party throughout the country these past few years. Incompetence is no excuse, either--Incompetence is actually less of an excuse, really, given all the privacy violations in the news lately.
posted by amberglow at 8:30 AM on March 1, 2006


Obviously, I agree with you on the incompetence. I'm not giving anybody the benefit of the doubt, I just think it's silly to argue that these guys were up to no good because some unrelated nogoodniks in Washington were spying on Democrats. That smack sof the worst kind of stereotyping and conspiracy theory. Dumb, yes. Malevolent? There's no evidence to support that claim.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:48 AM on March 1, 2006


monju, you do know how political operations work, right? That county and state workers take marching orders from their masters, Republican or Democrat, in Washington? Which is to say, let's wait and see how this unfolds. You should quit while you are behind, or at least have something substantive to add.

Ag is correct to point out that this incident is in line with recent stunts pulled by the Republican party. I only wish the FPP had included some mention of those, as well as the fact that some of the upcoming elections in MN are going to be squeaky close.

(For those not familiar with the DFL party.)
posted by bardic at 9:15 AM on March 1, 2006


Which is to say, let's wait and see how this unfolds.

Which is exactly what I said above. I know how political operations work, and I am not defending the MN-GOP. My point is threefold: (1) unsecured transmission and storage of confidential information is very bad, and should be fixed ASAP; (2) failure to warn that confidiential information will be transmitted by the CD would be bad, but we don't have enough information on that front yet; and (3) attributing nefarious motives to MN-GOP is speculative conspiracy theory when there is plenty of plain old stupidity to account for it.

If you want to keep casting me in the part of GOP defender, at least in dios' absence, feel free. But you'd be wrong.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:23 AM on March 1, 2006


Also, this kind of thing is usually developed and/or paid for by the national parties, and not by a small party operation (in a reliably Blue State no less, which means it's even poorer) on its own. Has anyone heard anything about this being distributed in other states? Is MN the test case?
posted by amberglow at 9:34 AM on March 1, 2006


amber, it's obviously impossible to tell who ultimately paid for this thing, but I think it was, in fact, developed by the local party. It features the Governor and local politicos giving short speeches, and was produced by a consulting firm based in MN.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:47 AM on March 1, 2006


How one could get concerned about this story is beyond me when the damn things isn't even released. If it was released, then maybe I understand the complaint. But as of right now, I don't think even monju's points are valid:

(1) unsecured transmission and storage of confidential information is very bad, and should be fixed ASAP

It apparently was fixed. And before anyone even got the discs. Where is the problem?

(2) failure to warn that confidiential information will be transmitted by the CD would be bad, but we don't have enough information on that front yet

We don't have ANY information on that front yet. The fricking thing hasn't been seen in its final form. In fact, all the evidence we do have is that there will be some explanation of the nature of it.

(3) attributing nefarious motives to MN-GOP is speculative conspiracy theory when there is plenty of plain old stupidity to account for it.

We don't have any evidence of even stupidity, much less nefarious activity.

This is entirely a generated partisan speculation that is attempted to suggest there is some nefarious scheme to steal people's private information and publish it. Why? Who knows, but to the partisan hacks, the why would be irrelevant. It's all about the smear. amberglow is under some delusion that he is exposing another data point in how evil the GOP is across the board. In that regard, amberglow would make a terrible litigator.

The first thing that good litigators learn is to fight the good fight. If you are trying the case before a jury or judge, you learn quickly to not fight the small, unimportant things even if you are right on them. Litigators are trained and able to fight everything, every point, every piece of evidence, everything. But its not always wise to fight everything because you tire out the jury and it undermines your arguments on the big things. If you fight every single thing, then you fight the big things, it looks like the big thing isn't a big thing and like you are just the kind of person who fight everything.

If I object vociferously about whether a photocopy of a driver's license should be admitted because it doesn't conform with the best evidence rule, then I look like a hack who is trying to fight everything. When I do object to the production of medical records because it violates HIPAA, the importance of that objection is disminished because I look like I am doing the same thing I did on the driver's license: fighting too much. The effect is just compounded the more you fight small, speculative, unimportant things. The jury--who you are trying to persuade--just looks at you as a hack.

Really, this is just the boy who cried wolf and the chicken little story in another form.

As for this cd thing; it is a nonstory. It is nothing more than speculation. To try to point to this as a serious reflection of how evil Republicans are will result in the same effect. But I guess partisan hacks will never learn the story. They will just keep on with their speculations because being reasonable is secondary to their goal.
posted by dios at 9:47 AM on March 1, 2006


monju, thank you for being a voice of reason in the midst of yet another round of this tiresome duel.
posted by brain_drain at 9:54 AM on March 1, 2006


This thread makes me sick to my stomach. I think you guys are doing it on purpose, as part of your larger agenda of disregard for my feelings.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:58 AM on March 1, 2006


You people can't fool me, even if you've hijacked the site.
This is Slashdot.
posted by hank at 10:11 AM on March 1, 2006


?

monju, I never casted you as anything other than a bit naive as to how political operations work. I certainly don't think of you as part of a package deal, so calm down.
posted by bardic at 10:19 AM on March 1, 2006


Do you realize how asinine it is that you are bitching about something that isn't finished yet?

Which is, in fact, a point in favour for bitching about it now: with any luck, it'll force the bright bulbs behind this entire idea to make sure that people really know what's going on when they choose to use the product.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:08 AM on March 1, 2006


In that regard, amberglow would make a terrible litigator.
Mefi is not a courtroom, darling.

and what fff said--the more people that know about this, the better.

If a reporter wasn't given the information they needed about this thing, then why assume the public will be? If that reporter had to actually call the party for clarification and explanation (meaning there was no press release or any supplemental info or handouts provided to the press along with the disk, which in itself is suspicious), then draw your own conclusions.
posted by amberglow at 11:19 AM on March 1, 2006


Perhaps said reporter neglected to include that information.
posted by mischief at 11:39 AM on March 1, 2006


This thing is a questionnaire. What would be the point of a questionnaire if it didn't report the answers somewhere? Who in their right mind wouldn't expect the answers to GO SOMEWHERE?
posted by me & my monkey at 1:37 PM on March 1, 2006


I was thinking that, too, m&mm. But we don't know if it really seems like a questionaire. You do have to enter that info, but I'm not sure that everyone would realize that means the info is going somewhere.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:34 PM on March 1, 2006


you make an ass of u and mptions

That was actually kinda funny. You been practising, Jek?

That said, the packaging is irrelevant. If the software doesn't announce itself when it does the deed and offer obvious circumvention (as in not embedded in a million miles of User Acceptance Screed), it's hijacking. Like those porn thingies that ring Cambodia and don't hang up. So I'm told.
posted by Sparx at 2:49 PM on March 1, 2006




PC World: -- You could call it poli-spyware: The Minnesota state Republican Party reportedly mailed out a very special CD-ROM presentation that ended up in the hands of a reporter. It features a Flash animation advocating for a marriage amendment in that state, but this is no mere slideshow: The interactive presentation contains a short questionnaire---one that collects your opinions on a range of politically-sensitive topics, then sends the results back to Party headquarters over the Internet.

Reportedly, it does this without telling you it will do so, without providing any option other than to transmit the data. There's no privacy policy, either. (Shocker.) ...

posted by amberglow at 6:59 PM on March 3, 2006


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