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Google Gets Into Politics With Civic Info API

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the click-the-vote dept.

Google 58

mikejuk writes "The new Google Civic Information API can be used to look up comprehensive voting information for particular addresses in the U.S. such as the polling place, early vote sites, contests, and local election official contact information. At the moment the API is limited to voting information for elections in the U.S., but Google plans to expand the support to cover other countries and include other types of civic information. Google plans to use the API to power their own election tools, including an embeddable app anyone can use on their site."

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Happy Friday from the Golden Girls! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41485121)

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a cosmonaut.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say, thank you for being a friend.

Re:Happy Friday from the Golden Girls! (0)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 2 years ago | (#41485417)

Since we are being off-topic with Golden Girls of all things, I would vote for Betty White over Romney or Obama in a heartbeat

Re:Happy Friday from the Golden Girls! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41516141)

A cosmonaut? True, Betty White portrays an airhead/spaced out person in that show, but I believe the word you were looking for was confidant.

NEW apple app (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41485137)

called the iFart it emits odours at all electoral apps near you....

Re:NEW apple app (0)

Quasimodem (719423) | about 2 years ago | (#41485611)

"iFart in your general direction."

Re:NEW apple app (0)

nischal360 (2713011) | about 2 years ago | (#41485901)

Test

anyone can use on their site... (-1, Troll)

holophrastic (221104) | about 2 years ago | (#41485187)

so google's looking to capture people's voting choices in advance of any election anywhere. Yeah, that's what we want. A system that prides itself on privacy and anonymity having all of its information duplicated to a commercial party. great idea.

please don't use this.

Re:anyone can use on their site... (4, Informative)

mspohr (589790) | about 2 years ago | (#41485213)

Did you even try to read the article?
This gives publicly available information on poling places and elected official contact information plus the election contests that an address is able to vote in.
Nothing about individual votes before or after an election.

Re:anyone can use on their site... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41485287)

Do you even know what kind of company google is? Grandparent is 115% right.

Re:anyone can use on their site... (3, Insightful)

Pieroxy (222434) | about 2 years ago | (#41485325)

The type of company Google is is 115% irrelevant to the point made by the FP.

Thanks for participating.

Re:anyone can use on their site... (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 years ago | (#41486809)

The headline is wrong, Google has been into politics for a long time. Google executives were (and no doubt still are) major contributors to Obama.

You can be pretty sure this app will be used to politely remind voters when and where to vote. But not all voters, just the ones who are located in districts that lean to the side the spammers supports and/or if you were tracked visiting websites sympathetic to their side.

Re:anyone can use on their site... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41485221)

huh wha?

"The Google Civic Information API can be used to look up comprehensive voting information for particular addresses in the U.S. such as the polling place, early vote sites, contests, and local election official contact information. The new API replaces Google’s Election Center API."

I don't see where it says "put your name in" or "tell us who you're going to vote for"....it seems to be a method to inform voters. God forbid we have an educated electorate.

Re:anyone can use on their site... (0)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 2 years ago | (#41486259)

I don't see where it says "put your name in" or "tell us who you're going to vote for"

While the OP originally sounded crazy, I think you've ended up showing us how google is likely to use it.

It isn't like they need to ask you for that information, there is a good chance they've already got enough information to cross-reference into their identity records. If you aren't already logged into a google service at the same time your browser hits this api, chances are you've still left a trail of previous accesses to things like doubliclick.com and googleapis.com embedded in other websites that they've correlated with cookies or at least ip address and browser-fingerprint. Enough so that if they can't directly divine your identity, they'll still add your usage of these apis to the "phantom" profile that they have been keeping, just waiting to have your real identity linked in at some point in the future.

Re:anyone can use on their site... (3, Insightful)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | about 2 years ago | (#41485285)

please don't use this.

Please don't just make shit up.

Re:anyone can use on their site... (1)

frosty_tsm (933163) | about 2 years ago | (#41487699)

please don't use this.

Please don't just make shit up.

He can't help it - he's watched it done on Fox too much.

Re:anyone can use on their site... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41489389)

Or hes watched Motorola and Google do it...
http://appleinsider.com/articles/12/09/27/googles-ilost-motorola-ad-faked-an-address-to-lose-ios-6-maps

Re:anyone can use on their site... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41485367)

Incredible that parent has been modded up. A company decides to do something useful and responsible, and somehow it's seen as a conspiracy.

Re:anyone can use on their site... (2)

Internetuser1248 (1787630) | about 2 years ago | (#41485433)

It is not that incredible, a lot of moderators mod based on apparent insightfulness, without checking for things like grip on reality, or relevance to the actual universe. Sometimes good mods come along and correct things though.

upsss.... (2)

InspectorGadget1964 (2439148) | about 2 years ago | (#41485189)

Is that going to be more accurate than the voting machines? And what will happen if there is a discrepancy?

Re:upsss.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41485249)

Is that going to be more accurate than the voting machines?

Can you ask the voting machines where the polling place is?

And what will happen if there is a discrepancy?

You'll have to locate your polling place in another way.

Re:upsss.... (2)

guttentag (313541) | about 2 years ago | (#41485595)

Is that going to be more accurate than the voting machines? And what will happen if there is a discrepancy?

By definition, any system (such as the "counting on fingers and toes" method) where the total number of votes counted equals the total number of votes cast is more accurate than voting machines [wikipedia.org] .

Not that this has anything to do with the article, which is about Google informing voters about how to register, where to vote and what the trends are. This way you know which bumper sticker is least likely to get your car keyed in your county.

Bumper stickers (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | about 2 years ago | (#41491271)

This way you know which bumper sticker is least likely to get your car keyed in your county.

If you're not willing to risk getting your car keyed, then there's no real point to having a political bumper sticker.

Political bumper stickers are there to legitimize politicians and political points of view. The hope is that they will convince people to look more kindly upon a given idea, or perhaps research it. If there is no serious opposition*, then the battle is already won.

*(Keying cars is very bad form; there will always be a jerk in every political alignment; if there is no jerk who might conceivably key your car, then there is no real opposition to the idea.)

So the google gay marriage campaign...? (2)

DSS11Q13 (1853164) | about 2 years ago | (#41485219)

no not that, google enters politics with a polling locator!

Re:So the google gay marriage campaign...? (3, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#41485251)

Considering how many robocall campaigns have been unleashed on Americans during the past few elections to purposefully mislead groups of voters about where polling stations are, this is a pretty important service. I just hope they get it to other countries soon, too—the Conservative Party of Canada appears to have stolen the last election using such a tactic.

Re:So the google gay marriage campaign...? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41485273)

Here in Germany, the location of the polling station is printed right on the paper which tells you are allowed to vote. That way, you know for sure it's authoritative information. And if that one should be wrong, you'll have a document to proof you were misled.

Re:So the google gay marriage campaign...? (1)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 years ago | (#41485457)

Here, they only send the paper out if your poling location changed for whatever reason. You have to actually request one when you change your address if you move. Otherwise it si in the same place it was the year before.

Re:So the google gay marriage campaign...? (1)

marka63 (1237718) | about 2 years ago | (#41485303)

Well here in Australia the polling stations (local schools, churches and town halls) don't change much from election to election (local, state and federal) and if you don't know where to vote the Electoral Commission's web site will tell you. Also since you are required register when you turn 18 and to attend a polling place every election this sort of disinformation campaign just doesn't happen here. You can also pre-vote, postal vote and absentee vote for all elections.

Re:So the google gay marriage campaign...? (1)

InspectorGadget1964 (2439148) | about 2 years ago | (#41485323)

I hope it does not get to any other countries. The rest of the world loves real democracy. No the US sugar coated plutocracy disguised as poepels government.

Re:So the google gay marriage campaign...? (1, Funny)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 2 years ago | (#41487651)

Considering how many robocall campaigns have been unleashed on Americans during the past few elections to purposefully mislead groups of voters about where polling stations are, this is a pretty important service

Look it is VERY simple. This year...to avoid the crowds and possibly having poles close before people can vote, this is how it is going down this year.

Republicans (the challengers) vote on Tues Nov. 6, 2012

Democrats (incumbents) vote on Wed Nov 7th, 2012

Very simple....write it down, and make sure to get your votes in!!!

Another ephemeral product from Google (1, Troll)

uofitorn (804157) | about 2 years ago | (#41485347)

Don't get too attached to this new API, it will probably go the way of the Dodo in a couple years, judging by Google's track record.

Re:Another ephemeral product from Google (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41485767)

Wait, this is insightful, there is a good point to make about Googles disappearing API's project that will hurt them in the long run, but the new political Google API is an interface that could make them a lot of money... Political influence in this API could keep the stock price from sliding...

Re:Another ephemeral product from Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41486497)

Writing software is fun. Supporting software isn't fun. Google doesn't do things that aren't fun. Is this getting through to you?

Beware third Parties (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 2 years ago | (#41485353)

I would not be surprised to see nominally politically neutral third party apps built on top of this interface that try to figure out what party you are likely to vote for via cross-referencing with various Big Data providers like BlueKai or Axciom and then, depending on which party commissioned the app, lying about polling place info (location, times, etc) or some other sort of dirty trick to discourage you from voting.

A smart "political hack" would only show the bad information a couple of times, so as to make it harder to prove that anything nefarious had gone on.

Re:Beware third Parties (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 years ago | (#41485479)

You mean with the app itself poisoning the results? I would imagine that enough people would complain about it that it would be at least suspect.

The type of people who would use an app for purposed like this are the type who can easily find places to complain to. The app store who distributed it is a logical one, but facebook and others would be right up there too.

Re:Beware third Parties (1)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | about 2 years ago | (#41486005)

The better strategy would be to hope your opponent did something as nefarious as uou suggest so you could write a program that checks their misinformation against the correct known data. Instant proof of their desperation and disenfranchisement.

The reasons why the current voter ID disenfranchisement will work is because it can make you look like you care about the integrity of the election and your opponent doesn't, while sabotaging the integrity of the election.

"What do you mean you don't support voter ID laws that let you use concealed weapon IDs but not state college issued IDs? Are you unAmerican?"

The preceding is applicable to Texas, where after having received two injunctions in one week vis a vis the Voting Rights Act, instead of amending the Voter ID law to allow free IDs to satisfy the federal judge, Texas appeals. Is it clear to everyone yet that when all the state republican partys made implementing Voter ID a priority, they cared more about disenfranchisement and making a poll tax not seem like a poll tax rather than lofty ideals like integrity and honor. How long until we can sell our votes on eBay?

Re:Beware third Parties (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 2 years ago | (#41486039)

The better strategy would be to hope your opponent did something as nefarious as uou suggest so you could write a program that checks their misinformation against the correct known data. Instant proof of their desperation and disenfranchisement.

As long as the disinformation only happens during a small window, like just on election day, then it wouldn't matter. The damage would be done long before any blowback could happen. Couple that with enough deniability - like having a Super PAC do it which are legally required to not be in coordination with the candidate - and even the blowback wouldn't hurt that much.

Re:Beware third Parties (1)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | about 2 years ago | (#41493821)

Then after that election we will be told about the previous day's blatant potentially legal 'fraud,' and collectively realize we all have woken up with a film of scum we potentially may never be able to remove.

I'm not even sure it would be the first film of putrid crud, or if we're so covered we couldn't tell anymore anyway

Re:Beware third Parties (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41487045)

The preceding is applicable to Texas, where after having received two injunctions in one week vis a vis the Voting Rights Act, instead of amending the Voter ID law to allow free IDs to satisfy the federal judge, Texas appeals. Is it clear to everyone yet that when all the state republican partys made implementing Voter ID a priority, they cared more about disenfranchisement and making a poll tax not seem like a poll tax rather than lofty ideals like integrity and honor.

Well, here in Ohio the hue and cry was over something a bit different, namely that in areas dominated by Republicans early voting was going to be held 7 days a week, while in Democratic-dominated areas early voting was going to be held weekdays only during work hours. The reason this could happen was that each county election board decides the rules for themselves, each board is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and the Republican Ohio Secretary of State gets the tie-breaking vote.

Re:Beware third Parties (1)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | about 2 years ago | (#41493979)

The preceding is applicable to Texas, where after having received two injunctions in one week vis a vis the Voting Rights Act, instead of amending the Voter ID law to allow free IDs to satisfy the federal judge, Texas appeals. Is it clear to everyone yet that when all the state republican partys made implementing Voter ID a priority, they cared more about disenfranchisement and making a poll tax not seem like a poll tax rather than lofty ideals like integrity and honor.

Well, here in Ohio the hue and cry was over something a bit different, namely that in areas dominated by Republicans early voting was going to be held 7 days a week, while in Democratic-dominated areas early voting was going to be held weekdays only during work hours. The reason this could happen was that each county election board decides the rules for themselves, each board is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, and the Republican Ohio Secretary of State gets the tie-breaking vote.

Beat this: in some Texas counties the DL office was only open the fifth Thursday of each month, putting people in a situation in which if they could only get an ID locally then they had four days a year.

Seriously though, TWO injunctions by federal judges concerning the Voting Rights Act, a piece of legislation drafted to protect Texas's citizens from it's infamous previous treatment of minorities, particularly impoverished African Americans.

I'm starting to suspect we made thirty years of progress regarding tolerance and equality only for Texas and a few other Mason-Dixon states to stand up from the table of mutual respect and shout "If your're not white or don't support us, fuck off." Texas is a great place besides the fundamentalist Christians and racists and it's normal people deserve better than Perry or Bush.

Re:Beware third Parties (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | about 2 years ago | (#41488059)

At least in your state they try to disguise it. In Pennsylvania the state house Republican leader came out in a freakin' press event and, during a list of their accomplishments, included the statement "Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania this November."

Seriously. He flat-out said that the reason they fought for voter ID was to help Romney win.

And for the record, there wasn't a single piece of evidence every brought forward showing even a single case of voter fraud in this state. I think they actually admitted in court that there was no known fraud...

Re:Beware third Parties (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41486427)

Pffft - the election's already stolen, and none of you seem to give a shit...
http://www.gregpalast.com/ballotbandits/ [gregpalast.com]
Just like last time.

Re:Beware third Parties (1)

gd2shoe (747932) | about 2 years ago | (#41491605)

He looks like a left wing nut job. That doesn't mean that there's not a lot of truth there, though.

It appears to me that both parties have been engaging in election stealing campaigns... not using fraudulent voters, but insiders.

May the sneakiest thief win.

(Please note, I don't think the candidates themselves have any idea this is going on. I think the parties are doing it.)

Re:Beware third Parties (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about 2 years ago | (#41489211)

Is there something in particular about Google's API that makes this more likely, or might your cynicism apply to any sort of voter precinct information source, interface, or service?

I'd be a lot more concerned about the "disappearing API" concerns voiced by others. I love the basic idea here, but it'd be insane for any pro to invest effort in a client application which relies on this API. You're going to have to have a more reliable backup plan anyway, so why not just use that, and forget Google?

Re:Beware third Parties (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 2 years ago | (#41491843)

Is there something in particular about Google's API that makes this more likely, or might your cynicism apply to any sort of voter precinct information source, interface, or service?

Nothing technically unique. Just the ability for such an app to appear more legit than an average voting info app by prominently advertising the fact that they use google's own services.

Buried Links (4, Informative)

guttentag (313541) | about 2 years ago | (#41485411)

TFA has lots of phantom links to drive their advertising revenue. Here are the links to the actual content we're talking about:

As an aside, years ago I worked with Kiwanis (a community service organization) on an initiative to promote political awareness among high school kids. At first I was concerned that they were going to try to push a particular viewpoint or agenda, but they made it clear that as an organization, for the purposes of this initiative, they were completely agnostic about it. Their mandate was to get people involved, and informed, so they could make their own decisions, because that's how the system works best. The system fails when you have a few informed people and masses of uninformed people who just vote for the candidate they think is the most attractive. So if that is Google's intent (which is the impression I get), it's an honorable goal. And making the API available seems to be an effort to give more people the tools to pursue that goal.

As long as Google doesn't start skewing the information (or, through a security hole, allows someone else to skew it), this is a good thing. There should be some sort of oversight to ensure that.

Re:Buried Links (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41487183)

Their mandate was to get people involved, and informed, so they could make their own decisions, because that's how the system works best. The system fails when you have a few informed people and masses of uninformed people who just vote for the candidate they think is the most attractive.

So, if I'm reading this correctly, you said the Kiwanis were a community service group, so you probably want to vote for that community organizer guy rather than a hard-nosed businessman, and don't want the poor to just lie down and die if they can't get a job. Plus you want the system to work correctly, and any true conservative knows that government can never work well. This effort was clearly run by those liberal elites who think everyone should get a decent "education", which is actually a Communist indoctrination effort that teaches kids about evolution and religious freedom and pulls them away from the good conservative Christian faith they were born with. See, you might think it was a non-partisan effort, but really it's a very subtle socialist conspiracy, just like fluoridation of drinking water.

Re:Buried Links (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 2 years ago | (#41487735)

Is it sad that I'm not quite sure this is satire? Remove the bit about fluoridation, and I've actually heard exactly that by quite a few conservative politicians and radio hosts.

Re:Buried Links (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#41488373)

That's why I included the bit about fluoridation, to try to make it clear it was in fact satire.

Also, Poe's Law [rationalwiki.org] .

Fluoridation and Sarcastoball (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about 2 years ago | (#41489699)

The thing about fluoridation is that people used to really say that. So it made it into a certain famous movie, and now everyone knows it's a joke, so it's a special red flag for satire. But it's only a satire signal because it used to not be one.

We have way more media today, than in 1963. Everything is faster. Why cannot everything become a satire signal, and therefore though dilution, nothing be a reliable satire signal? The time will come, that crackpots will not be creative enough to say something which hasn't already been mocked. (This is uniquely true for conservative crackpots, because by definition, they have to say old things or else they'll be labeled liberal crackpots instead.)

I wonder if it's even possible to resist Poe's Law. Did you see this week's episode of South Park? There might come a day, when no one ever knows if someone else is joking or not.

frist pSot. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41485585)

Cunt3ipes Jordan

Civic Info... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41485857)

But can it tell me where I parked my Honda Civic?

Code examples (1)

Dave Emami (237460) | about 2 years ago | (#41486175)

bill=google.civics.findBill("SOPA").clone();
while ((bill.isPending()) && (!bill.isPassed()))
{
senator=google.civics.randomSenator();
senator.bribe(10000);

}

Re:Code examples (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41489855)

Not sure whether to mod +1 Funny or +1 Sad Truth.

My comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41486577)

Very nice story with update

Polling place changes (1)

Bobberly (1677220) | about 2 years ago | (#41486731)

Considering that polling places can change (at least they do often in Florida) the accuracy of information is of high concern to me. I can't even get their map application to stop resetting phone numbers and addresses for our government office. Can't wait for the phone calls saying "google told me this was my precinct, " even though the official web server that shows locations is in the room next to me.

Winner! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41486853)

Is there a "Winner" field? In some places, the winner will be known ahead of time.

The Bad News is (1)

fbumg (632974) | about 2 years ago | (#41487075)

But if this is run on iOS6 it might show total inaccuracies. The API might return valid voting locations if I put in the address of my local cemetery, or if I pass the API more than one address at a time. And we know that dead people can't vote, and that people can't vote more than once. Wait...what?

Use it before it's gone! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41488653)

Google APIs. Here today, but gone soon.

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