Much speculation and rumor has surrounded the mysterious data connections that bounced back and forth between Russia’s Alfa Bank, Trump Tower and the DeVos family’s Spectrum Health in Michigan prior to the 2016 election. Rather than concentratin’ on whether it was top-secret spyware, database replication or some other whiz-bang data transmittin’ software, let’s step back and look at the role each site played and what value each player might have added to this little Trump-spiracy.
Now that some of the smoke has cleared, we know two basic facts.
- Russian hackers were able to acquire voter rolls from a number of key battleground states.
- Russian bot-farms were able to inundate social media with fake news, propaganda and Trump-friendly talkin’ points in the run-up to the election.
The question we must ask is a simple, but important one, because the plausibility of this whole data-sharin’ shindig rests on it…
How did the Russians convert generic voter roll information into a specific list of targeted social media contacts?
In simpler terms…
Voter rolls have basic information: name, address, maybe a phone number, but that’s it. Unless you plan a massive door-knockin’ campaign, it’s pretty useless. So, to repeat the question, how do you get from generic voter rolls to micro-targeted social media lists? What’s the one thing that ties all these things together? An email address!
All Russian intelligence needed was to associate an email address with a name and address of a voter and bingo! Every social media account you own is tied to your email address, right? Once they had an email, they could data-mine everything about you from your social media feeds. They immediately knew if you were a Trumper, a Hill-bot, a Bernie Bro or a Stein fanatic, and could tailor a bot-campaign custom-made for you!
So where did they get the email addresses? This is where Spectrum Health comes in. Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Spectrum is smack dab in the middle of one of the states the Trump campaign had to tip to win. They are a huge health-care provider with subsidiaries that include hospitals treatment facilities, urgent-care clinics, as well as physician practices that serve the western Michigan area. But the big enchilada for this caper is their access to insurance provider databases from all over the United States. And what do those insurance database all have? Email addresses tied to a name and address!
Bam! This is the key to tied the whole operation together.
So what did the DeVos family get in return for Spectrum’s role in this little ping-ping wing-ding? You’ll have to ask the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos!