Military Ballots' Privacy Risks


American troops could be putting their most personal information at risk -- just by voting in next week's elections.Members of the armed forces, stationed overseas, can cast their vote with a Federal Write In Absentee Ballot, or FWAB, if they can't get one from their local election boards. But that federal ballot, "Standard Form 186 (Oct 95)," comes with a major privacy risk, at least in some editions. The ballot has to be mailed in a special return envelope, in order to be properly processed. On military bases in the Pacific, Special Form 186 requires a service member to include his address, social security number, date of birth, and signature on the outside of that envelope.envelopeback_crop2.jpgIn other words, everything needed to steal a soldier or sailor's identity is on public display, for anyone to see (full pics: back, front). ."You'd think the people running this program would've noticed. It's a joke they didn't, and it's obvious no one was paying attention," a Navy aviation electrician, attached to the 7th Fleet, tells Defense Tech.Online editions of the FWAB seem to be more security-conscious, warning servicemembers "NOT [to] WRITE ANY PERSONAL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION ON THE ENVELOPE" -- an envelope that's largely blank.But the paper ballots aren't the only source of privacy concerns in the military voting system. An e-mail balloting program has been called into question, for using unencrypted data. "E-mail traffic can flow through equipment owned and operated by various governments, companies and individuals in many countries," the Washington Post quotes an August report prepared for the Pentagon as saying. "It is easily monitored, blocked and subject to tampering."But even easier to monitor is a paper ballot, with personal data scrawled right on the outside of the envelope. Which is why the Navy aviation electrician refused to use the form."I wasn't the only person who didn't send the ballot in. It wasn't worth the risk," he notes. "I gave some money to the candidates instead."UPDATE 7:02 AM: What are the absentee ballots like where you're stationed? Tell us here or write in.

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