Washington state has just become the first in the U.S. to allow voters to register online via Facebook. Unlike Facebook’s bullying “I voted” button, with which Facebook users guilt their non-voting friends by pasting to their profiles, the app will be a discreet and functional tool for the state to record voter registrations.
The app is a joint collaboration between Facebook, Microsoft, and the Washington state government.
To those of you who think the idea of the state collecting your personal information with Facebook in the middle sounds like a terrifying breach of privacy, both parties assure you that you have nothing to fear.
“You are giving your information to us, not Facebook,” says, Shane Hamlin, co-director of elections. He also said that Facbeook is only being given “permission to use names and dates of birth,” but nothing else.
Right-o. Facebook has made some serious privacy transgressions before, and the explanation above probably won’t do much to ameliorate concerns of those who don’t trust Zuck & Co.
That said, this does seem like the first step in an inevitable transformation in the way we vote. As the internet has transformed basically every aspect of our lives, we still vote pretty much the same way we did in the 1930s. Once voting goes digital, participation will almost surely shoot through the roof. Who really wants to drag their ass out to the polling station and wait in line to punch a piece of paper—especially in November?
Facebook is the natural ecosystem for this type of thing, given that almost everyone is already connected there. But the notion of a publicly traded company holding the keys to your vote and acting as an intermediary between you and the state is troubling, to say the least.
What would be far superior is the government investing in a digital voting infrastructure. But that would require government spending on something useful, which is just about as popular politically these days as a fart.
So, voters of Washington, you’ll have to trust Zuckerberg with your voter registration, or keep doing things the old fashioned way like the rest of us.