i've blogged about implicitly threatening map mashups before (somewhere ...), and here they come, back around. Once again, this one is about same sex marriage -- in this case, who donated money to the Proposition 8 campaign. Somebody has done a Google Maps mashup to locate the addresses of Prop 8 donors on a map. Of course, these addresses are always available to the public under sunshine laws, and anyone can go and plug them into Google Maps themselves -- one by one -- if they want to see it on a map.
But of course, no one is going to go that extra step. The mashup accomplishes two things, actually:
- It is mildly, implicitly threatening. It goes the extra step, removes the extra layer, to make it possible to see instantly where all the donors live on a map. It takes away the slight inconvenience that would prevent most people from seeing these addresses on a map ... and maybe doing something about it. It's all the more threatening because there are so few donors in San Francisco (pull back on the map and you'll see a lot more dots in the East Bay and the Central Valley.) Someone could potentially do an action with every single one of these addresses.
- It gives us a better demographic feel for who is supporting Prop 8 and why. You'll notice, of course, almost nothing in the hipster Mission or the gay district, The Castro. This is something that you really need to map out the addresses to be able to see. This is one of the virtues of mapping.
So one informative, and one mildly antidemocratic purpose.
While transparency in political donations is essential, and demographic information is useful, I don't see what purpose it serves to have the name and street address of individuals donating to a particular cause shown on a map, expect to intimidate them. Why not have an ambiguous dot, with no name-labeling, hovering over the blocks of their houses without pointing out the exact house? That will give you the virtue of demographic information without the intimidation factor. Because frankly, if I knew that pro-life groups had my location on a map showing people who had donated money to Planned Parenthood, and were broadcasting it to their crazy fire-bombing fringes on the internet, I might think twice about making that donation.
On the other hand, Prop 8 supporters trying to overturn the 1974 California donor sunshine Proposition 9, is not the right response. You don't throw the application out with the mashup. Just make public map mashups using donor or voter names illegal, or even just unethical, and this stuff will stop. People will still be able to get lists and look the names up one by one. Orgs will still be able to mashup maps and use them internally, especially for research. But this kind of public encouragement of ... whatever ... won't be possible anymore. And I think that's enough.
What do you think?