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

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 @10:56PM (#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 sootman ( 158191 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:03PM (#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 @11:12PM (#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.

  • by cryptizard ( 2629853 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:17PM (#40891023)
    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...
  • So.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Severus Snape ( 2376318 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:19PM (#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.
  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:19PM (#40891037)
    Such are the flaws of collectivism.

    What I find is interesting is that this is Obama's official campaign app and not some third-party "lets see what we can do with data" app.
  • My new app... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by multiben ( 1916126 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:20PM (#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 Nyder ( 754090 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:26PM (#40891079) Journal

    ah, yes... "the" corporations, much like "the" [insert racial stereotype here]

    You might think corporations are people, but the sane people do NOT believe that.

    So sorry, corporations can not find safe harbor under hate laws. Nice try though.

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:50PM (#40891215) Journal

    Why would you say tea party nut? You do realize the last several shooting incidents were most likely people who would vote democrat right? They also were somewhat crazy and probably never connected their political ideology with their desire to kill people.

  • by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @11:55PM (#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 fm6 ( 162816 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:02AM (#40891283) Homepage Journal

    Collectivism? Why is everything that the right doesn't like is assumed to come from the mind of Karl Marx? If your neighborhood watch goes around noting the license plates of guys who cruise for hookers, is that collectivism?

    Social morality has always had an element of peer pressure and groupthink. That's as true for right wing value systems and left wing ones.

  • by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:03AM (#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.

  • by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:27AM (#40891399)

    He wasn't talking about hate laws, you said that. His comment was about irrational fear, stereotyping, stupid generalizations and other small minded ways ol looking at things.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:30AM (#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.

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:30AM (#40891411)

    Even better in some states you don't need to register to vote in primaries.

    This is a gross violation of privacy.

    There are two issues here.

    1. Some democrats aren't going to want their neighbors to know they're democrats.

    2. What if the whole neighborhood pops up blue but one house isn't. Does that guy get singled out now?

    I'm sure this sounded like a great idea when they were doing their "community organizing" meetings. But in practice it just leads to bad places. This app needs to be killed and the Dems probably should have a modest lawsuit payout for violating privacy rights. I don't want to come too down too hard on them mostly for political reasons. It's not practical to attack any of the major parties in that way. They're both too well protected and have too many friends. But it needs to be understood that you don't out people that register without their consent.

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:31AM (#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:So.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:34AM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:45AM (#40891501)

    It actually seems MORE true for right wing value systems, actually.

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @12:56AM (#40891535) Journal

    So you equate using government punishing free speech as the same as government encouraging actions it agrees with?

    Let me tell you the difference, both is free speech, but the constitution prohibits the government from denying it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2012 @01:08AM (#40891589)

    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 crymeph0 ( 682581 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @01:22AM (#40891659)
    The organizer of Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, Mike Huckabee, is a former, not current governor. I'm not sure if any active governors endorsed Chick-Fil-A appreciation day. But I'm not aware that any politicians expressing support for Chick-Fil-A were implying that they would spend government resources supporting Chick-Fil-A, e.g. by catering their department lunches exclusively from Chick-Fil-A. Several of the mayors who have spoken out against Chick-Fil-A, however, at least strongly implied, if not directly threatened, to use government resources to punish Chick-Fil-A for its president's personal opinion, by denying permits for new store locations, etc. Those opposed to the views of Chick-Fil-A's president have every right to protest and boycott, and the mayors would have been well within their authority to denounce the views of Mr. Cathy, including endorsing boycotts by private citizens, but using tools of government to punish individuals or corporations is not acceptable or legal. For what it's worth, I voted against a recent constitutional amendment in North Carolina that prohibits gay marriage, and disagree very strongly with Mr. Cathy's apocalyptic viewpoint on the issue, but I am even more firmly opposed to the government rewarding or punishing points of view.
  • by BakaHoushi ( 786009 ) <Goss.SeanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 06, 2012 @02:12AM (#40891905) Homepage

    I'm in agreement here.

    I think Chick-Fil-A's president is an ignorant blowhard. However, he is entitled to the right to be an ignorant blowhard. The mayor can call him an ignorant blowhard and could even attend a "Chick-Fil-A's President Is An Ignorant Blowhard Parade" if he so chose.

    But the second he threatens to use government resources to reprimand him? That's over the line.

    However, I'd also like to point out that he is one man. I do not appreciate a lot of the comments I've noticed that imply everyone who disagrees with this man somehow must also endorse the mayor's intended sanctions. This ignorant display of identity politics needs to stop. It pops up in nearly every debate. Usually in the form of "A random idiot who belongs in Group X believes Something Stupid Y. Therefore, everyone who is a member of Group X believes Something Stupid Y."

  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @02:41AM (#40892089) Journal

    Chick-Fil-A wasn't attacked because of the CEO's political opinions, it was attacked because of their donations to hate groups, particularly the one that is pushing quite successfully for Uganda to make homosexuality a capital crime.

    Really? Then why did they start protesting only after Cathy made his comment? And if the uproar was over donations made by Chick-Fil-A, then maybe you should notify CNN and every other news outlet that thinks this is about what Cathy said. Here is a quote from a CNN [cnn.com] story:

    The controversy came about after an interview with the fast food restaurant chain's president and COO, Dan Cathy, appeared in The Baptist Press on July 16 and he weighed in with his views on family.

    "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit," Cathy said. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."

    Strange. No mention of Uganda at all.

    Oh, and the whole Uganda story is bullshit [cbsnews.com] anyway.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2012 @03:14AM (#40892257)
    Because they didn't do anything worth impeachment, not that idiotic partisans like yourself can be convinced of being reasonable. Any other black people you'd like to see removed from office, or were those the only two Rush told you were bad?
  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @03:40AM (#40892395) Journal

    If they ban only the ones who practice constitutionally protected rights, I am equally outraged.

    You see, the difference between banning strip clubs in general and only "Crazy Jack's lady emporium" is that in one, it is an across the board ban based on community standard or whatever they are using to justify the ban not related to the expression of first amendment rights, the other is singling a specific business out because of first amendment expression and religious freedom.

    Without this distinction, then any government entity could ban or use the public infrastructure to interfere with the business of anyone who supports another candidate for office or a position that the political officer doesn't like. Would you find it equally tolerable if the mayor of New York banned Amazon or Starbucks (amazon's founder donates 2.5 million to defend Washington's gay marriage law, Starbucks says on their web page they support gay marriage and some are trying to create a gay starbucks appreciation day) from doing business there because they support rewriting marriage laws to allow gays to marry? That's a more appropriate comparison to what these mayors are doing and it is a matter of the first amendment and a government punishing specific companies based on their or their owner's expression of it. It is simply wrong whether you agree on the message or not.

    Alcohol sales is a bit different because the repeal of prohibition specifically gives the states explicit control over alcohol which would allow them to limit the amount of bars and or times alcohol sales could happen in certain areas.

  • by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @04:01AM (#40892489) Journal

    "While voter data has been 'technically public,' it is usually accessed only by political campaigns and companies that sell consumer data. "

    Why is it automatically considered not a privacy issue if your information is sold?

  • by TFAFalcon ( 1839122 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @04:45AM (#40892655)

    So why are public funds spent on primary elections, when they are held by private clubs?

  • by stomv ( 80392 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @06:52AM (#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.

  • Re:What if ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by flyneye ( 84093 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @07:01AM (#40893133) Homepage

    Contact Harvard law prof Jonathan Zittrain, he's so offhanded about other peoples privacy, he can call "Immigre'" on them.
    Typical Bostonian blue blood jerk off. He can jam his "'Much of our feelings around privacy are driven by what you might call status-quo-ism" up his ass till he asks what I think before he includes me in "OUR". Whatta dipshit!

  • by Ly4 ( 2353328 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @09:47AM (#40894103)

    Careful - that's a dangerously slippery slope. What if the company donated to planned parenthood? What if the mayor banned atheists from owning businesses?

    In short, what about the first amendment?

    Glenn Greenwald discussed this at length: http://www.salon.com/2012/07/30/free_speech_and_donations/ [salon.com]

  • by BakaHoushi ( 786009 ) <Goss.SeanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 06, 2012 @10:08AM (#40894279) Homepage

    The problem is that other members are NOT responsible for what he said. Only he is. If tomorrow someone in a group I belong to says that he thinks all children everywhere should be beaten non-stop to build character, I don't need to publicly disagree with him. In fact, the only way you should hold his opinion against me is if I publicly pledge support for it. This is especially true when you consider that so many stupid things are said every day by all sides that if you had to apologize for every one said on your side, you'd never get to do anything else.

    The real issue here is that, first of all, besides political parties not meaning much, "groups" like liberals, progressives, conservatives, radical religious nutjobs have very vague and subjective definitions, at least as far as our common usage of it. Many people hold views that could be regarded as a part of all of those. So who gets to decide what groups I belong to? I'm an atheist, but I'm sure some would define me as a religious nut because of that, or assume that means I agree with other atheists who say religion should be banned.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @11:24AM (#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.


  • If you're asking a question like this, the subject is the federal government, and the answer eludes you, you can safely default to "corruption" and be right 99% of the time.

Why won't sharks eat lawyers? Professional courtesy.