Over at Borepatch yesterday there was a post about Democrats being creepy because they build an app that uses public data to show where registered Democrats live. I left a comment which was misunderstood so I’ll expound here instead of putting a long comment there. Mr. Borepatch’s comment notwithstanding
This simply makes my skin crawl. We know that there are people who are willing to target their political opponents.
This is not a problem with the Democratic party using publicly available data. Do not blame them for using the tools available to them. If you think your party affiliation should be kept private – DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO COLLECT IT. Go get them to change the rules.
I looked at two different voter registration forms today California and Texas (that should provide a good spread, right?) California has a box marked “Choice of Party.” Texas does not. If the government is requiring the collection of information then it is going to be public information more often than not. And that’s a good thing. And if I can’t fill it out, you can’t build an app that shows the data. I’m not a “registered anything” because there isn’t even a place for me to declare it. (Although if I go vote in a primary for a party they take note of that)
FWIW, I built a similar app as a proof of concept 4 years ago when I discovered the political donation info was readily available. Want to get creepy? Map out everyone on both sides who donated with big $$$ based on how much they contributed.
The real issue here is that the state’s directly support the two party system by actually managing the process for them and registering you with them. There is absolutely no reason for the state to provide ballots or procedure or anything to the private organizations known as political parties. The state recognizes the 2 parties officially and keeps the current system in place which is good for the incumbents. (Now when it comes to what the party does with its own data – same story; its on you to know that they are going to use the info to their advantage unless specified otherwise)
You want transparency in government? Then live with that transparency.
p.s. Borepatch, surely in your field you can’t have been surprised by the availability and use of data like this.