Personal political information: Opt-in or Opt-out?June 9, 2012
Some people may have been thrilled to learn about Votizen.com, which, according to their website, “is a web service that allows you to discover how your friends on social networks are registered to vote, and campaign with them to elect candidates that share your values.
The heart of Votizen is the over 200MM–strong voter database which is social media ready. Voters can connect to their own records to see their voting registration and history, as well as use it to prove their power to those that hold and seek office. Voters can then scan their social networks and reveal the voters they can work with to campaign for candidates they believe in, whether it’s nationwide for a Presidential election, or in a local city council race.”
If you are like me and were dismayed to discover that your personal political information might be available to your “connections” on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, Votizen says that there is a way to protect your information. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to send you an opt-out link.
Don’t misunderstand: I appreciate Votizen’s stated intention to “create a new political currency based on voter-to-voter connections, reducing the influence of money and increasing the importance of relationships in civic engagement.” At the same time, I prefer to keep my political affiliations private and think that revealing this kind of information should be “opt-in” rather than “opt-out.”
On a separate note, Votizen’s claims make me worry about our educational system because, unless I am missing something, it appears that the people at Votizen failed to pass or did not take the Common Sense Math course and did not learn the Double Check Your Work rule.
Fact check: Votizen claims to have a database of more than 200 million registered voters which would mean that approximately 2/3 of all citizens are registered voters. That felt wrong to me, so I did some checking and discovered that it really is wrong. The current population of the United States is approximately 314 million, and the US Commerce Department reported only approximately 137 million registered voters in 2010. (To see specifics, click on this link, the select Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2010, Detailed tables, Table 1.)
As a voter, a former elected public official and a former teacher, I believe that Votizen is wrong on its voter registration stats and wrong to make political affiliations public without permission.