From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Citizens Raise Concern Over Electoral Fingerprint Gathering in Wake of Massive Data Leak

A group of Albanian activists has sent a letter to the Commissioner of the Central Election Commission Ilirjan Celibashi with a series of questions about the biometric voting system used in the general elections.

Following the recent scandal involving a leak of personal data related to 910,000 voters in Tirana, the activists are concerned that any data collected during the voting process, such as fingerprints, could be misused.

An Access database was leaked to the public and contained the name, ID number, phone number, voting center, father’s name, place of work, and detailed notes on their political preferences, religion and ethnicity, disabilities, and various other personal matters. The latter information was gathered by Socialist Party appointed “Patrons” or spies who are each assigned citizens to monitor and report back to the party.

During the recent general election, biometric authentication equipment by US company Smartmatic was used by the government. This required people to use fingerprints and scans of ID to verify their identity prior to voting. Citizens raised concerns that if the data is stored, it could be added to a similar database and be used by the party without their permission.

They have asked the CEC whether they or Smartmatic will have access to data used to verify identity, if so, what it will be used for, and whether there are any guarantees that it will not be misused by the CEC, Smartmatic, employees of either, or the government.

Electronic voting was also used in one area of Tirana. The citizens questioned whether the combination of biometric identification and electronic voting could mean that its possible to tell who voted for which party and candidate.

Chairman of the CEC, Ilrjan Celibashi said in November 2020 that the equipment does not record data, it merely compares it. He added that the devices are not a part of a network, are not connected to the internet, and cannot communicate with each other. At the time, he did not clarify how the security of fingerprint data would be guaranteed and how it would be stored.