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Privacy problems, political peer pressure: Voting records' availability spells trouble

In the internet age, the pressure to vote has its benefits and its drawbacks.  – Photo by Twitter.com

In recent years, severe tension has built around politics not only during election periods but also on a day-to-day basis. With more and more people joining social media platforms and being consumed by the internet, it's now easier than ever to share your political opinions and views. But now that everyone is able to have their own platform, it just adds to the long list of things that can make the internet a toxic place.

The midterm elections were held yesterday. All over the internet, people have been reminding others of how important it is to exercise their right to vote, regardless of political party. This puts a lot of pressure on others to vote and can make them feel obligated to do something they may not want to do. As a citizen of the U.S., you have the right to vote — which means you can vote if you want to do so, but no one can or should force you to do so.

But whether that information will be kept a secret may not be at your discretion anymore.

A website called Did My Friends Vote? gives anyone with access to the internet the ability to check and see if you have voted or not in both general and primary elections.

This isn't the first time something like this has been created. Similar initiatives have been started like Impactive, which is also seemingly behind the Did My Friends Vote? site — while there's no explicit mention of Did My Friends Vote? on Impactive's site, the website's URL and similar design choices seem to point this way.

Impactive was created in 2017 to “empower grassroots campaigning through scalable technology, allowing volunteers to organize their family, friends and local communities,” according to the company's website.

Impactive partners with progressive organizations and campaigns and works closely with each partner to customize products for their work.

Voting ballots are private information, but what most people don’t realize is that voting records themselves are not. While this site technically isn’t an “invasion of privacy,” because it doesn't say who you voted for, it still shouldn't be this easy to find out whether your second grade teacher voted. The site doesn't require that much information to run the search. As long as you know the person’s full name, age range and town they live in, their voting record is in your hands.

This site is harmless at first glance, functioning as a way to encourage and put social pressure on people who don't normally vote. But these people may not know enough to feel confident in voting. It can also potentially further divide the already severely split democracy we live in, and this information can be used against people. Pressuring others to do anything that they don’t want to take part in is wrong on many levels.

We don’t always have to be in someone else's business all the time. Instead of creating ways to make people feel pressured to vote, we need to learn how to be able to have meaningful, useful conversations about politics.

It's more important to educate others than it is to shame them, like talking about historical events that they don’t teach in schools (the kind that some people are uncomfortable talking about). This way, we continue to educate ourselves along the way. Creating positive spaces to have these conversations can motivate others in a positive way so that they make the right decisions. Politics are stressful enough as it is these days.

The internet can be a wonderful tool that has had a positive impact on the way we live our lives — we have the world at the palm of our hands, literally. But on the flip side, it can destroy our livelihoods and put us all in a very dangerous position when it comes to our privacy. Nowadays, everyone seemingly loves to share every bit of their lives on the internet, but where will we draw the line?


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