Putin's Party Accused of Calling Voters Illegally

United Russia's Use of Phone Numbers Was Data Breach, Watchdog Says

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Russian President Vladimir Putin during a military parade in Belgrade.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a military parade in Belgrade. Credit: iStock

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has been accused of ordering the poisoning of dissidents, the murder of journalists and the imprisonment and killing of political opponents. And now his United Russia party has been accused of -- gasp! -- bothering people with political campaign phone calls.

According to a Newsweek story referencing a report in Russian paper Kommersant, the party has been calling Moscow residents to persuade them to support United Russia in the legislative elections to be held in September, "since we can all agree that our President Vladimir Putin does everything to strengthen our government's standing in the world and works for the good of the country."

But, just like here in the U.S., people are not thrilled with getting calls from a political campaign. Some are complaining that the party obtained their phone numbers illegally. In fact, Golos, a think tank that monitors Russian elections, claims that the phone calls amount to a privacy breach of data intended for use only for administrative purposes.

"'An operator of personal data, which means whoever is privy to it, including to the phone numbers of Muscovites, handed this data to United Russia,' Andrey Buzin, co-chair of Golos told Kommersant. According to him, while the government legitimately has such information resources at its disposal, when it comes to party matters, they ought to be off limits to United Russia."

Of course, here in the States we're accustomed to those pesky campaign calls. It's perfectly legal here for candidates and political groups to use voter data to contact voters. Information showing our names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses (sometimes) and which elections we've voted in is all publicly available through secretaries of state.

But don't expect fewer calls or communications using that data anytime soon. Indeed, our own perpetually campaigning elected officials made sure that the National Do Not Call registry and the CAN-SPAM law governing commercial calls and email do not apply to political campaigns.

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