- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2015

As presidential hopefuls pull out all the stops to earn the trust of American voters, a new study suggests that the official campaign websites for most of the candidates are ripe with “troubling privacy practices” that place user data at risk.

While government agencies and corporations alike continue to find themselves the targets of cyberattacks, the Online Trust Alliance has reported that the websites of nearly three-fourths of the current White House hopefuls don’t make the cut when it comes to taking user data seriously.

The Washington state-based nonprofit, which assessed the websites of 23 Republican and Democratic candidates, said Friday that 17 of the sites — or roughly 74 percent — are failing with respect to their overall privacy, security and consumer protection practices.

Craig Spiezle, executive director and president of the Online Trust Alliance (OTA), said it is incumbent on the candidates to “embrace responsible data stewardship.”

“Although political websites may not be beholden to the same security and privacy standards as industry, our findings clearly reveal that these campaigns’ data practices are out of alignment with consumer expectations and Federal Trade Commission guidelines for the business community,” Mr. Spiezle said in a statement. “In this era of consumers’ mounting distrust of data and privacy practices, candidates must move beyond a compliance mindset.”

According to the audit, four of the presidential candidates’ websites failed to explain how they utilize unique visitor data, and others outright acknowledged their right to liberally share or sell the personally identifiable information of its users to “like-minded organizations.”

In some instances, the privacy policies implied that the websites reserve the right to make money off the addresses, employer information and even passport details of their visitors, OTA reported.

Of the 23 candidates whose sites were assessed, only a half-dozen received “passing” grades when scored on a privacy, security and consumer protection rubric designed by OTA.

The six candidate websites that made the cut belonged to the campaigns of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, all Republicans; and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, both Democrats.

Websites for Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and her GOP counterpart, billionaire businessman Donald Trump, both received a failing grade.

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