Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Is your neighbor a Democrat? There's an app for that

I saw this today on Slashdot:

"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.'"
Utah is overwhelmingly Republican, and a free app like this could conceivably result in prejudice against Democrats.  I realize that this sounds crazy, but I know many people who prefer to keep their political affiliations private for fear of negative reactions from family, friends, and co-workers.  One need only Google "Can you be a good Democrat and a good Mormon?" to see that the issue is frequently raised in Utah.

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