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Originally posted at Voices on the Square, a new blog in the sphere featuring News, Information, and Fun!
Welcome to You're Doing It Wrong, a weekly column taking the Powers That Be (PTB), especially the media and talking heads, to task for poor information and poor framing.

This week, I’m not going after the media and talking heads; instead, I’m going after the PTB for something that I don’t think is well thought through and could result in some rather negative unintended consequences.

As technology has developed, it has made many things in life a whole lot easier, which is awesome.  But sometimes that technology, even if it makes things easier, should not be widely available to just anyone.

Last week, the Obama campaign released a new app for the iphone that allows anyone to download a google map with addresses of voters, and includes name, address, age, gender, and party affiliation. They did this to make it easier for anyone to volunteer to go door to door to do GOTV canvassing. I can understand the want to expand this accessibility to a wider pool of grassroots volunteers, but is it really a good idea?

Yes, in this day and age, information on us is collected all day long via our phones, computers, ipads, and discount cards. There are cookies on our web browsers and logs of our purchases, and records of what websites we visit and what we click on. There seems to be no end to the data mining lengths marketers can use to track us, many times unknowable to us who has access to this information. One decent thing about this data mining is that most of these pieces of data are either logged without much personal information or only with the personal information that we choose to give when we sign up for a website or discount card. Another decent thing about it is that the information is not widely and easily available to the public. Neither of these things apply to the new canvassing app now available.

When I sign up for a website, most of them simply require a user name and working email address to register. Then, if I choose to, I can go to my profile page and add information, they key phrase here being “if I choose to”. When I sign up for a discount card, the most they demand is a name and sometimes a phone number in order for the card to work. When I go to a website, my pageview is logged under my IP address or under my user account. But again, even this limited information is not widely available to the public.

However, when I register to vote, I don’t have a lot of privacy options. Most states require your name, physical address, mailing address, date of birth, driver’s license or ID card number, and party affiliation, and many states also require the last 4 digits Social Security number, any felony convictions, and phone number. You don’t have the option in most cases to leave any of this information blank. Now I can understand needing this information for something as important as registering to vote, but having some of it released to the public at large bothers me greatly.

While I know that technically, voter registration information is considered public info, it used to be that access to canvassing information had some gatekeeping involved. In order to obtain that information, you had to be a volunteer with a campaign office, which then meant you had to go and get it from the local campaign office, and they didn’t give it to just anyone. This not only meant you had to sign up with the office, but that you had to actually do the canvassing and the lists had to be returned to the office. A regular person could not just go into a campaign office or the county registrar of voters and simply get this information. I know people did find ways around it, but at least it wasn’t terribly easy. Even with today’s online phone-banking set ups, most of them only give the volunteer the name, phone number, age, gender, and party affiliation of the folks they will be phone- canvassing.

I have a huge problem with having physical addresses available to anyone who wants it. I purposely don’t include my home address on anything where it’s not absolutely required. In my life, I’ve been stalked and harassed before and the last thing I want is someone who may have an issue with me being able to readily find out exactly where I live. In the job I have, people tend to get really mad at me, and the last thing I need is my home address readily available to them. In these days, what with the partisan venom stoked regularly by Faux Noise and its various affiliated talking heads, do we really want to have it so anyone can find out where all the Democrats live in their area? I live in a red state where there’s a very palpable hatred for Democrats and liberals by some of the most ardent right wingers; do we really need to have it be easy for them to get this info? All you have to do is sign up online as an OFA volunteer and that gets you my personal information if you want it? This is stalking made easy, courtesy of the Obama campaign or any other campaign that decides to use something like it. I know the campaign says there are safeguards, but those safeguards only go into effect after the misuse occurs. That certainly doesn't make me very confident.

It was a bad idea in 2008 and it’s a bad idea now. I know it makes things easier for the campaign to GOTV, but at what possible cost? The Obama campaign just gave a little target map to any angry rightie who wants to harass me and you, simply because of our party affiliation. I call bullshit on that. And I can’t see any real way of safeguarding that info in that you can just sign up online to get it, as opposed to actually having to go out of your way and go through actual human beings at the local campaign office to get it.

Releasing an app for finding out people’s home addresses and party affiliation to anyone in order to get out the vote for you is Doing It Wrong! Most people value their privacy, and for some of us that privacy is necessary. So to the Obama campaign, if you want my vote, if you want people to turn out for you, making their personal information available electronically to anyone one who wants it is a bad idea! Instead of opening all of us registered Democrats to possible harassment by anyone in the general public simply because you technologically can, perhaps think about doing it the way it’s always been done. It hasn’t stopped anyone in the past from getting elected and it won’t stop anyone in the future. The best GOTV has always been enthusiasm over a good record; short of that, allowing for anyone to invade people’s privacy is probably not the most effective way to earn a vote.

Originally posted to poli's pages on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 10:21 AM PDT.

Also republished by The Rebel Alliance.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for protection of our privacy and (11+ / 0-)

    personal information!  :D

    A) "The administration should be worried about the level of despair here." ~Markos Moulitsas at NN12 B) "Stoking the base’s enthusiasm is part of a campaign’s job, whether or not it thinks it should have to do it." ~Michelle Goldberg

    by poligirl on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 10:16:29 AM PDT

  •  All of that info is already on the web for our (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamesGG, PSzymeczek, rhubarb, poligirl

    county. Anyone who wanted to harass on that basis can get it with a few mouse clicks.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 10:47:40 AM PDT

    •  not necessarily. you cannot find out my (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TheMomCat, triv33, gooderservice, priceman

      real address that easily without paying for it. and a lot of those wholesalers of info don't have updated or current info either...

      A) "The administration should be worried about the level of despair here." ~Markos Moulitsas at NN12 B) "Stoking the base’s enthusiasm is part of a campaign’s job, whether or not it thinks it should have to do it." ~Michelle Goldberg

      by poligirl on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 11:02:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're not registered to vote? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama

        That's where they're getting their information—publicly-available voter registration files.

        "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

        by JamesGG on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 11:13:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  they aren't publicly available. go to your (5+ / 0-)

          local registrar of voters and try to get the list. you won't be able to.

          A) "The administration should be worried about the level of despair here." ~Markos Moulitsas at NN12 B) "Stoking the base’s enthusiasm is part of a campaign’s job, whether or not it thinks it should have to do it." ~Michelle Goldberg

          by poligirl on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 11:25:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  ... (0+ / 0-)

            If you own property in my county, there is a data base with address and what the house is worth, etc.  Until recently, there was a picture of the house displayed also.

            People who have landline phones are listed in the directory with address unless they have specifically asked to have it removed.

            Enter any part of someone's information in Google and it is possible to get more information.  

    •  not only that, but what of folks... (6+ / 0-)

      who don't know me personally but are angry at Democrats? i'll come up on the app for anyone in my area to see. that the database is based upon party affiliation in this day and age of increasing anger and discontent is disturbing to me... i live in a red state with no shortage of people who blame their problems on the Democrats...

      A) "The administration should be worried about the level of despair here." ~Markos Moulitsas at NN12 B) "Stoking the base’s enthusiasm is part of a campaign’s job, whether or not it thinks it should have to do it." ~Michelle Goldberg

      by poligirl on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 11:05:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Qrcodes are more effective (0+ / 0-)

    You  can embed lots of information within a Qrcode, thier are million of potential user already have the mean to access them

  •  This isn't at all private information. (0+ / 0-)

    Voter registration files, including your party registration in states that have it, are public information.

    If your local right-wingers were interested enough in finding members of the Democratic Party near them in order to harass them, that information was already out there; if it's not available online, it's no more than a quick trip to the County Clerk's office.

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 11:15:52 AM PDT

    •  a regular person cannot go into the (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TheMomCat, triv33, gooderservice, priceman

      county clerk's office and get this information. at least not in any of the dozen elections i've done various GOTV efforts for.

      so while it is technically "public info" it's not available to just anyone.

      A) "The administration should be worried about the level of despair here." ~Markos Moulitsas at NN12 B) "Stoking the base’s enthusiasm is part of a campaign’s job, whether or not it thinks it should have to do it." ~Michelle Goldberg

      by poligirl on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 11:27:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Perhaps in your state, not in mine. (5+ / 0-)

      In PA you must make a formal request and pay a fee. You must also provide to the official you are making the request to your identification and a written statement attesting to the fact that you will not be using the list for purposes unrelated to elections, political activities or law enforcement. That's a bit more than a few clicks on your computer or some Charlie Nobody just showing up and asking for it.

      So--no, I do NOT appreciate there being an app for that.

      I shave my legs with Occam's razor~

      by triv33 on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 12:17:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well said triv! me either. :D nt (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gooderservice, triv33, priceman

        A) "The administration should be worried about the level of despair here." ~Markos Moulitsas at NN12 B) "Stoking the base’s enthusiasm is part of a campaign’s job, whether or not it thinks it should have to do it." ~Michelle Goldberg

        by poligirl on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 12:40:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Isn't it funny how this (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          poligirl, gooderservice, priceman

          creeping invasion of privacy is all so cool with everybody now? Get my info at the drop of a hat? Well, it's just OFA so that must be fine and dandy! It might be a matter of public record, but I want you to damn sure identify yourself and your purpose for having that information, but OFA thinks it's cool to bypass that step? fuck.that.noise.

          I shave my legs with Occam's razor~

          by triv33 on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 01:01:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  yeah... sigh.... this administration... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            triv33, gooderservice, priceman

            has made a lot of things "cool" that waaaaaay didn't used to be...

            A) "The administration should be worried about the level of despair here." ~Markos Moulitsas at NN12 B) "Stoking the base’s enthusiasm is part of a campaign’s job, whether or not it thinks it should have to do it." ~Michelle Goldberg

            by poligirl on Fri Aug 10, 2012 at 01:19:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

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