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Is Your Neighbor a Democrat? There's an App For That 550

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-blue-is-my-neighborhood dept.
theodp writes "ProPublica's Lois Beckett reports that the Obama for America campaign's new mobile app is raising privacy concerns with its Google map that recognizes one's current location, marks nearby Democratic households with small blue flags, and displays the first name, age and gender of the voter or voters who live there (e.g.,'Lori C., 58 F, Democrat'). Asked about the privacy aspects of the new app, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign wrote that 'anyone familiar with the political process in America knows this information about registered voters is available and easily accessible to the public.' Harvard law prof Jonathan Zittrain said the Obama app does represent a significant shift. While voter data has been 'technically public,' it is usually accessed only by political campaigns and companies that sell consumer data. 'Much of our feelings around privacy are driven by what you might call status-quo-ism,' Zittrain added, 'so many people may feel that the app is creepy simply because it represents something new.'"
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Is Your Neighbor a Democrat? There's an App For That

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  • by FreeUser (11483) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @09:56PM (#40890899)

    It is creepy, and a good reason not to register as a member of either party...no matter how much you may want to vote in the primaries.

    • by skids (119237)

      What, they can't tell by my lawn signs?

      • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:04PM (#40890941) Journal

        Mine just say, "Get off!"

      • by jhoegl (638955) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:55PM (#40891247)
        Yeah, why would you all care if someone knew what party you registered with.
        If you are ashamed of your party... change?
        If you are scared of others, what part of that is freedom?
        Stand up for yourself...
        • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:31PM (#40891419) Journal

          I don't know. I guess when you have democrat mayors so easily making statements of their intentions to use the government and public resources around them to economically harm a corporation because of free of speech by the CEO of a company made in a personal manner, you tend to think there are some people who will use information they do not agree with against you in ways that are not only unethical but illegal as well.

          You are right, what part of freedom is that? But we were reminded recently of it so it is a concern.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          As a non-USAian, I've never understood why you have to "register" with a particular party. This seems like it just opens the door for all kinds of election fraud and manipulation.

          Why is it that you can't just go down the polls and put a check mark beside whatever candidate you want?

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:58AM (#40891829)

            You don't have to register for any party, because you can select independent. You have to register with a party if you want to vote in their private elections. The primaries aren't official government election. They're elections held by the parties to see who will represent them in the official elections. Some of them don't require you to register, but most do.

          • You can (Score:4, Informative)

            by Quila (201335) on Monday August 06, 2012 @01:01AM (#40891843)

            The two parties own our political process. They make it difficult for anyone but them to get on the ballot. They even have "straight ticket" checkboxes on ballots so you don't have to go through the trouble of voting for individuals based on their qualifications, but simply vote for every Democrat or Republican on the ballot.

            But in the end, you can vote for whoever you want to vote for in the general election.

            The biggest reason for the party registration is that most states don't allow you to vote in a party's primary unless you're registered to a party, and a person registered for one party can't vote in another party's primary (vote for the weakest candidate). Yes, that's another way the two parties have owned our system: The government actually runs and pays for their primary elections when it should be their own business who they put up for election, and entirely with their own money.

            • Re:You can (Score:5, Informative)

              by jbolden (176878) on Monday August 06, 2012 @06:42AM (#40893273) Homepage

              That was the argument of the Texas Democratic party in Smith v. Allwright. That it was a private event and therefore they had every right not to allow blacks to participate. The supreme court found that primaries are a compelling part of the American electoral system and therefore not entirely private matters.

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            It's because we Americans are simply too stupid to select an election system that allows more than two parties, such as the proportional representation systems that you Europeans have. All we get is simple plurality voting, which of course leads inevitably to two parties, and a vote for any other party is "a wasted vote".

            • It's because we Americans are simply too stupid to select an election system that allows more than two parties

              Please don't expect this to help. There are enough clueless idiots out there to fill any number of political party nominations. I'm not sure that choosing the least worse of 3 or more is much better than least worse of two. But you should definitely keep party membership lists private - it opens all sorts of possibilities for abuse otherwise.

          • by khallow (566160)

            As a non-USAian, I've never understood why you have to "register" with a particular party. This seems like it just opens the door for all kinds of election fraud and manipulation.

            It creates an obstacle for undermining a vote. Outsiders can go in and deliberately vote for weak or joke candidates. But any such attempt is going to lose participants, if they have to register as members of the party in question.

          • If you are from a country with a Westminster system it's similar to being a member of the democratic party. You don't have to be a party member to vote in the election, but you do if you want to vote on internal party matters (such as picking the candidates to represent the party - a process known in the US as "the primaries"). Not sure how registering as independent works, by default the Westminster system considers anyone not registered with a party as the independent group.
            • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday August 06, 2012 @02:15AM (#40892261) Journal
              The difference is that party membership in the UK is just as private as being a member of any other group - for good reason, the early members of the labour movement were harassed and arrested. Making the membership records public makes any number of abuses easy. There was a lot of furore last year when the BNP membership list was made public, for example. Membership lists are also now covered by EU and UK data protection legislation, so the party must ensure that they are not shared with other companies without explicit permission of the individual. The 'usually accessed only by political campaigns and companies that sell consumer data' bit of the summary would be completely illegal in the UK.
          • My father, who is American (not me though, technically yes, but I don't live there, and it seems like a crazy place I wouldn't want to stay for all that long), thinks the Primary system makes the USA more democratic. I'm not so sure. Seems to me like a weird way for the 2 "parties" to be completely inescapable.

            In Canada, when we have a terrible political party because it gets too corrupt from being in power, eventually that party gets dumped and those with that ideology have to form a new party that must em

        • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Monday August 06, 2012 @06:43AM (#40893281)

          Yeah, why would you all care if someone knew what party you registered with.

          You know, I didn't used to care. Then recall season hit here in Wisconsin, and happy groups like this [dailykos.com] started popping up on Facebook, not to mention tons of veiled threats online (I received plenty just commenting on Madison.com during the height of the circulation)...and even a few open ones. Then, of course, the employers started getting harassed over their employees having signed the recall petitions and shit like this [dailykos.com] started happening.

          While I'm not afraid of those people when it comes to violence against me (they're largely trailer park living, welfare collecting, hypocritical cowards), when those signatures were released I was definitely worried about repercussions in the workplace. [freakoutnation.com] How do you prove you were terminated in response to political ideology? Even if you could prove it, political affiliation is not considered a protected class [wikipedia.org].

          Maybe if you'd lived up here in Wisconsin over the last year you would understand better why shit like this being made public could intimidate some people.

        • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday August 06, 2012 @10:24AM (#40895133)

          If you live deep in red territory, you neighbor for years who is normally a good and decent guys, however you just kinda nod your head when he goes on his political ramble. Now see you are part of the party he really hates, you may be outcast from the community.

          You may not be scared of the person, however you life just got a little more difficult for something you considered a minor ideology difference.

          We all have our beliefs and values, some of them we just kinda want to keep private from others, not that you are embarrassed of it, but because it can create tension where it really isn't that big of a deal, because other may have a stronger view on the topic then you really do.

             

    • by c0lo (1497653)
      NSA will still know about you, though.
    • But we ALLLLLL Bundle!

    • But wait! We could combine this with the data from the phonebook! Then you can harass everyone else simply by looking for households without a blue flag!
    • by KingSkippus (799657) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:46PM (#40891193) Homepage Journal

      Creepy or not, it's not new. In the presidential election of 2004, I remember seeing a web site mentioned in an article where you could go and look up who gave how much to which campaigns for any address. I remember wondering how many people know that the information was so readily available. If anything, this will be a good thing in educating people how easy the information is to access.

    • by fm6 (162816)

      "Independent" is an identification too, and one that will actually get you more attention than being with a party. Whoever gets the indy vote wins.

  • I know all about who's what, since we see dozens of petitions a year.
  • ignored by the Government.

    Seriously, this is what they think is a good idea?

    Time for change is right. I'm thinking we need a new system, the current one no longer represents the people.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      Seriously, this is what they think is a good idea?

      The Obama campaign is just using a technique that's tried and true in the corporate world.

      As long as they don't start installing this app as part of AT&T's Android bloatware package, I don't have a problem with it.

      But it's interesting that knowing about what corporate money is coming into a political campaign is completely off limits. For some reason, that's considered just beyond the pale. Well, we know the reason, but that doesn't make it easier to s

    • ... ignored by the Government

       
      Sadly, I have to tell you that Privacy has been ignored not only by the government, but also by a lot of people around us
       
      Look at what they have disclosed about themselves on fb and other social-network sites
       

  • by sootman (158191) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:03PM (#40890935) Homepage Journal

    > Harvard law prof Jonathan Zittrain said the Obama
    > app does represent a significant shift. While voter
    > data has been 'technically public,' it is usually
    > accessed only by political campaigns and companies
    > that sell consumer data.

    "But the plans were on display..."
    "On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."
    "That's the display department."
    "With a flashlight."
    "Ah, well, the lights had probably gone."
    "So had the stairs."
    "But look, you found the notice, didn't you?"
    "Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'."

    - Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:12PM (#40890973)

    Right. Yes voter records are accessible to the public but so are criminal records and those
    of sex offenders. Even the wages and salaries of federal employees are available online
    for anyone curious enough btw.

    I wonder what a given neighborhood would look like if we overlaid sex offenders and
    criminal records with Obama voters. This is entirely feasible and entirely legal as well.

    But yes for everybody else who didn't have the misfortune of living 30 years in a communist
    country, commies love to use peer pressure. Right now they're planning to show who is
    using how much electricity in a given neighborhood and giving discounts if _everybody_
    reduces their energy use in a street. Yes, if only one neighbor exceeds the set quota
    everybody 'loses' and everybody will know who is 'responsible'. Expect your neighbors
    to come to your door and bitch at you.

  • Citizen, there's an app for that. Now go spread the message around your block.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:16PM (#40890995) Homepage

    The previous method, back in the days before all this social networking stuff: Republicans tend to keep their shades drawn, even though they really don't have anything that would be worth hiding. Democrats ought to draw their shades, but don't.

  • 1. adds a list of people to harrass for republican activists.

    2. even more sign the democratic party is less based on ideals, but more on the sense of community that has been taken from us by the paranoia and fear taken from us by the government and RIAA/MPAA affliated communities. Make otherwise unsure people feel like part of something, and hopefully they won't pay attention to issues.
    • even more sign the democratic party is less based on ideals, but more on the sense of community

      Wow, so it's "community" now to out your neighbors and friends as to political leanings?

      Come to think of it, Democrats are fond of outing gay Republicans. I guess this is just another example of how the Democrats know best what aspects of your life should be public.

      As others have stated - a better incentive to register independent I have not seen.

      Thank you Democrats for birthing yet another wave of libertarians,

  • You can't simultaneously thing wikileaks and government transparency are good things and this is a bad thing. The data was already available, this app just puts a more accessible spin on it. Whether the data should be available or not, that we can talk about...
    • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:03PM (#40891291)

      You can't simultaneously thing wikileaks and government transparency are good things and this is a bad thing

      The hell I can't. Government should be transparent, not people.

      Also, there's a similar analogy to the difference between a six-shot revolver and an automatic weapon. The balance between openness and privacy was struck when the data was hard to get. Now that it's so easy to get en masse, that balance needs to be re-struck.

  • This quote makes me think of south park

    anyone familiar with the political process in America knows this information about registered voters is available and easily accessible to the public.

    Just answer me this Tweek, what do you see as postive about toddler murder?
    Ahh ahh... It is easy
    Yes it easy.

  • So.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Severus Snape (2376318) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:19PM (#40891033)
    This data is not 'creepy' when company's are using this data privately for profit, however when it's expressed publicly in a not-for-profit way it's a privacy concern. God bless America.
    • Generally, a corporation having access with data means they'd be able to better market and serve you. I really fail to see what is creepy about companies being able to better to serve me. For example, I'd much rather see an ad for, say, a sale on the newest graphics card than p3n15 p1llz or just generic ads (granted, I use adblock so I don't see ads, but still). Not that I really see it as any more creepy that individuals can see it too, all I really care about is preventing governments from most of my data
    • by gmhowell (26755)

      It's just like when the bastard politicians exempted themselves from the Do Not Call registry.

    • Re:So.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:34PM (#40891445) Journal

      This data is not 'creepy' when company's are using this data privately for profit, however when it's expressed publicly in a not-for-profit way it's a privacy concern. God bless America.

      How many of your nearest thousand neighbors have you shared your political affiliation with?
      That's what this does and that's why people find it creepy.

  • My new app... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by multiben (1916126) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:20PM (#40891043)
    ...shows the private addresses of all politicians with a range of little icons over their houses showing what kind of scandals they have been involved with and what organisations they have been members of.
  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:26PM (#40891081) Journal
    What this may do is surprise a lot of people, who are actually secret liberals but pretend to be right-wing to avoid confrontations. (My husband does this with his parents. They're as tea party as it comes.) If people see they're not so alone, maybe they won't be so ashamed... Then again, if they see a wall of solid red around them, maybe they'll move.
    • by gmhowell (26755)

      Similar thing where I live. It's amongst the bluest of areas in the country, but the gun range is always busy when I visit.

    • Pretty much what I was thinking....who cares if the Democrat across the street knows you're a Democrat? But that fellow who accuses you of stealing his mail when you give him the NRA pamphlet the mailman mis-delivered to your box....
    • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:30PM (#40891409)

      If all you see is red and blue, I'd say it's time to get new glasses, metaphorically speaking...

      If you start hating someone just because of one thing they believe, then the only person that has a real problem is you.

  • And once again (Score:4, Informative)

    by kilodelta (843627) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:29PM (#40891099) Homepage
    They act as though IOS is the only platform. I searched on Google Play (Stupid name btw, Market was much better!) and no such app exists for Android.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:32PM (#40891121)

    This database been used by Choicepoint for years for Gerrymandering. When you read that a GOP mob will be challenging black voters in district X, it's because Choicepoint has worked out that district X is the best chance of swinging the vote by barring black voters. Ethnicity they mine from one database, the voting preference from this database.

    Remember the voter cleansing list? Crossed referenced with Choicepoint (DBT as it was then). The list of mostly Democrats purged from the Florida electoral roll for having similar names to convicted felons in other states. Where do you think they got the list of Democrats from to filter by??

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Central_Voter_File

    This data should be private, perhaps showing people the public data about them will finally help it be kept private.

    Who you vote for is your business, and nobody elses.

  • Basically, cellphones in any area signal to nearby wireless-router access-points (like your home wireless router) and send their own geo-location along with their signal-strength and MAC-address of the router to a database. Over time and multiple cellphones/smartphones, etc. doing the same thing, the router's MAC becomes traingulated and is mapped to a database. I think the database is managed between Skyhook and Google, which can be querried with the MAC address for the info. I'm pretty sure I've done a po
  • One more nail (Score:5, Informative)

    by chicago_scott (458445) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:38PM (#40891165) Journal

    Yet another way Democrats and Republicans have devised to drive voters to register (and vote) as independents. Let's hope this trend keeps up!

  • by ichthus (72442) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @10:54PM (#40891243) Homepage
    "That's weird. How come Disneyland and every graveyard are covered with little, blue flags on this map?"
  • precedent (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:01PM (#40891279) Homepage Journal

    Before we get too excited about this, we would do well to remember that it wasn't until the 1800's that we started having anonymous voting.

    When you voted for any of the first several presidents, you went into a big room and held up your hand. There was zero voter fraud then (as now).

    Secret ballots and anonymity in the electoral process was not part of the original system in the US. The founders didn't see the need, apparently. But counting the votes was always taken very seriously, with representatives from both parties involved. (This was before the innovation of black box computer voting outsourced to Republicans. Before Ken Blackwell. Before 2000).

  • Come on, people! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fm6 (162816) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:06PM (#40891313) Homepage Journal

    If your opinions are that private, WTF are you doing on Slashdot?

  • by Altanar (56809) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:35PM (#40891451)
    This is just another example of tech burning away the illusion of privacy. It isn't taking away privacy from people; it's just another graphic example of letting people see what kind of information that is and always has been freely available to anyone who wants it. Which is worse? Not knowing what people know about you or knowing very well what people can know about you? It might be scary for some, but I'll *always* choose the latter.
  • by stomv (80392) on Monday August 06, 2012 @05:52AM (#40893103) Homepage

    Voter reg data includes not just brief biological data [first, middle, last, address, DOB, sometimes telephone, date registered, political affiliation, the elections in which the person voted, which were absentee], but then state census data contains lots of other good stuff [first, middle, last, maiden, address, sometimes telephone, occupation as person reports it, head of household status, etc] and then if the person is a homeowner, you use the assessment database [date home purchased, assessed value each year, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, condition of each, any co-owners]. Then you can throw in the facebook, the google, the linkedin.

    My concern: even private citizens like myself who know of and access this data don't flaunt it. I don't make it obvious to a neighbor that I know she votes in all Democratic primaries or only votes in November 0 mod 4 elections. I don't talk about her property tax bill either. Some people with this app will play it poorly because they will not understand that even the data is out there in the public, it is still impolite to treat it as common knowledge.

  • by Mathieu Lutfy (69) on Monday August 06, 2012 @08:50AM (#40894131) Homepage

    If you think that's creepy, checkout:
    http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/elections-quebec-2012/carte-du-financement-politique-au-quebec/ [lapresse.ca]

    Since 2011, any amount over 200$ was made public by the organisation overseeing elections. Since 2012 all amounts are public. This is (in part) to counter corporate fraud. Companies are not allowed to donate directly to political parties, so they ask their employees to do so.

The ideal voice for radio may be defined as showing no substance, no sex, no owner, and a message of importance for every housewife. -- Harry V. Wade

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