Governments around the country are reconsidering contracts with a firm whose CEO was arrested last week on allegations of illegally storing election workers’ personal data on servers in China.
Eugene Yu was arrested on Oct. 5 near Lansing, Michigan—where his Konnech firm is based—on data theft charges lodged by Los Angeles County district attorney George Gascon. Storing such data offshore violates its contract with the county, Gascon’s office said.
However, the Elections Board of DeKalb County, Georgia, voted on Oct. 10 to continue its contract with Konnech.
The two Democratic appointees, plus the at-large member appointed by a judge, voted first not to sever the contract and then to require the data in question be held only on the county’s servers. The two Republican appointees opposed.
“My grave concern is that our active account could become inactive in a single moment, and doing so during 19 days of early voting or on Election Day could cause havoc with our election operations. We would have no advance warning and no recourse,” McCarthy said.
“It comes down to the basics of who will pay the bills and what employees will continue to work as the company is in turmoil,” McCarthy said. “What happens if Konnech cannot pay its cloud hosting fees? When they can’t make payroll?”
The county is also exposing itself to financial liability if a worker damaged through a personal data breach decides to sue it, she said.
Chairwoman Dele Lowman Smith, a Democrat, downplayed the privacy concerns, noting that only election workers’ names, addresses, and phone numbers had been stored with Konnech.
“And just witness every single person who’s spoken [during]public comment just publicly gave their address, and that’s been the practice for this board and for pretty much any other public board,” Smith said.
“Ninety-five percent of that type of fraud is committed just by using that type of data—name, address, email address, and telephone number,” said Jenine Milum, a Republican state house candidate who said she works in the field of consumer fraud.
Several other members of the public expressed their fears that, as election volunteers, their data could be compromised.
One said she refrains from social media and has declined to give the county her bank account information for direct deposit of her paychecks, all because of privacy concerns.
True The Vote, an organization fighting for election integrity, has taken some credit for exposing Konnech’s China ties. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office has yet to confirm that.
In an email to The Epoch Times late on Oct. 7, that office said it was delaying comment on how it determined Konnech’s use of Chinese servers until Yu’s arraignment.
A Michigan prosecutor terming him a “flight risk” last week noted he was on his way to the airport with luggage, has numerous foreign business and family ties, and had left his cell phone at home.
A judge set bail at $1 million and required Yu to wear a GPS tether, surrender his passport, and report to California authorities by Oct. 14.
Detroit’s $320,000 contract with Konnech, set to expire in June 2024, has also included software for ballot scanning and absentee ballots.
“Our data, which is now back under our exclusive control, was housed on servers located in Lansing, Michigan. Konnech, per its contract, only provided logistical and call center support,” city clerk Janice Winfrey was quoted as saying on the website of WDET, an NPR station.
“Out of an abundance of caution, all proper steps are being taken—including the termination of Konnech’s contract. My staff and I are confident that the 2022 election process will run smoothly, delivering, after all votes have been counted, an unimpeachable work product.”
The Michigan secretary of state’s office said voting had not been compromised.
“Konnech operates a payroll management system for poll workers that is used by Detroit and has never had access to voter data or election data,” said Angela Benander, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
“The Michigan Bureau of Elections does not contract with Konnech. Michigan elections remain secure, and voters can be confident in their integrity and accuracy.”
Source: The Epoch Times