A Brave New World

This is the future of politics, and I don’t know if I like it. It’s a site called “Eightmaps”, and is a mashup of Google Maps and the Yes on Prop 8 donor list.  It shows, by residence or place of business, where donors live, their name, and how much they donated.  On the one hand, this is nothing but a convenient repackaging of publicly available information.  On the other, this seems uncomfortably close to the way that domestic terrorists will publish the names and home addresses of doctors who perform abortions.

Uncomfortably, this is what transparency in government really means.  As digital barriers to privacy fall away, one is going to more and more become unable to hide behind anonymity.  At least it’s easy to consider that there will be some benefits: it’s got to be hard to put your support behind stripping fellow citizens of their rights, when you know that support will be announced to the world.

It’s also easy to guess that that perhaps a Panopticon-like effect on society at large will be a chilling of political discourse.  It’s easy enough to see Eightmaps-like things being used for simply public shaming, which is a healthy part of the political discourse of the Republic.  But it’s also easy to imagine their use for something less healthy.

What seems certain is that there’s no way to put the cat back in the bag.  Google Maps isn’t going anywhere, and the State of California can’t abandon public donation disclosures.  And if they do, someone will steal, leak, or hack it out of them.  I don’t see why no one’s had the idea of compiling publicly available information into a political facebook.  Type in a name, see what parties they’ve joined, what causes they’ve donated to, what they’ve been willing to go on record for.  I don’t know if that’s a good idea either…but it’s one that will likely happen, and I don’t see any way to stop it even if you wanted to.  And it’s impossible to predict what it will do, because it is fundamentally different than anything else in human history.

As is everything, of course.

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