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Likud campaign chief credits get out the vote data app for huge gains

Yair Revivo says Elector gave 20,000 Likud activists info to ‘fish’ potential supporter from their homes and get them to the polls, winning party extra 4-5 seats

Yair Revivo votes in municipal elections at a polling station in the central city of Lod on October 22, 2013. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Yair Revivo votes in municipal elections at a polling station in the central city of Lod on October 22, 2013. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

Likud’s campaign manager on Tuesday credited the party’s improved showing in Israel’s latest round of elections to an application used to help pinpoint potential voters and get them to the polls.

Yair Revivo, the mayor of Lod, said the Elector app was used by 20,000 party activists to “fish” out voters on Election Day, giving Likud an edge, despite questions over data security breaches linked to the software.

“The whole growth [in seats] from this time to last time, four to five seats,” was because of the Elector app, he told Channel 12 news.

Revivo was praised by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Likud’s “elector” in a post-election speech as exit polls indicated the party would receive 36-37 seats, well ahead of its centrist rival Blue and White.

With over 90 percent of votes counted, Likud was set to return to being the largest party in the 120-member Knesset, after finishing one seat behind Blue and White in September’s elections, though it was again looking short of a majority together with its right-wing religious allies.

“Likud didn’t have this database [nationally], so it was all new [this time],” said Revivo, who used the app in his own successful mayoral campaigns in 2013 and 2018.

In the interview, Revivo detailed how the app works. A list of Israel’s roughly 6.5 million eligible voters, available to all parties, was uploaded to the app, with those who are party supporters, or could be, marked down.

“You know where he lives, which city, and you call him. If he’s supports you, you mark him. If he was at a [party] event, you mark that he was at a Likud event and that he’s a Likud supporter,” he said.

The app is downloaded by party activists who enter in information about their acquaintances, according to Revivo, creating a pyramid of Likud supporters.

Likud supporters celebrate at the party’s post-election party in Tel Aviv on March 2, 2020, following the release of exit polls. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Lod mayor said the thousands who used the app during Monday’s elections had been given a sense that their involvement was meaningful.

“That’s what got people out to the voting stations,” he said. “In the afternoon, you look — who hasn’t voted yet. Plenty have done [so], but the whole victory is to squeeze the lemon, and get a bigger turnout than your rivals.”

He said Likud was able to “fish” voters out of their homes, helping fuel higher levels of turnout in areas where the party has traditionally enjoyed strong support.

“We knew to ‘fish’ them out of their homes and to call them and they’d say, ‘we’re coming in an hour [to vote].’ And so you’d phone in an hour… you irritate him a bit but he thanks you in the end,” Revivo said.

He also said that supporters give the party their phone numbers and that if they want Likud to stop calling them, their numbers are taken off the list.

Revivo tweeted from a meeting with Netanyahu later Tuesday, where he said he was thanked personally by the party leader.

In the run up to this week’s elections, the third in less than a year, Elector made headlines after a data breach on the app resulted in one of the largest and most compromising leaks of Israelis’ personal information in the nation’s history.

A petition filed to the Central Elections Committee accused Likud of using its access to the official voter registry to create a database of all voting-age Israelis that it then made available to its grassroots activists through the publicly available app, which the party purchased from the Elector company.

A flaw in the app’s web interface gave “admin access” to the entire database, allowing anybody to access and copy the Israeli voter registry, along with additional information gathered by Likud about hundreds of thousands of voters.

The exposed database includes the full name, sex, home address and in many cases cellphone number and responses to political polling for 6.5 million Israeli adults.

There was also a second leak of information from the app due to faulty data protection.

There has been no immediate evidence that the exposed information was downloaded by foreign actors, who could use it to compromise Israel’s security, before the vulnerability was discovered.

Screenshot of the website of the Elector elections data app, taken February 10, 2020.

Officials are now looking into possible breaches of privacy laws — including handing over the voter registry to the programmers of Elector. Israeli election law gives political parties access to the registry, but forbids handing it to a third party.

Elector was used by other parties as well, including Yisrael Beytenu and in a limited way by some primary candidates in the Labor party over the past year. But Likud was the only one known to have outsourced its voter data wholesale to the app, and Netanyahu had on many occasions urged party activists to use it.

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