TO: CVF-NEWS FROM: Kim Alexander, CVF President DATE: March 21, 2001 RE: "tracktivism", dot orgs and more
In this issue of CVF-NEWS:
* Political dot coms sink, but "tracktivism" still alive and well * WSJ reports on the "revenge of the dot orgs" * Pew survey finds people are engaged but time is a barrier * Coverage of CA Supreme Court hearing on Griset case * City of Los Angeles mandates electronic filing of campaign finance reports
Political dot coms sink, but "tracktivism" is alive and well
According to a story in last week's Industry Standard, one of the now-defunct Internet political portal sites, voter.com, is now seeking buyers to purchase the email addresses and political data the site gathered last year through its registration and user-tracking process. According to the article by Aaron Pressman, "The recently failed political portal Voter.com plans to sell a list of 170,000 e-mail addresses, complete with the party affiliations and issues of interest to people on the list, raising new concerns about the strength of voluntary privacy protections when companies go belly-up."
The voter.com site was one of several online last year that required registration and used "cookies" to track users and compile data that could be used or sold for political or commercial purposes. Such sites were designed to appear as if they were created to foster political activism, but were really designed to track people's interests and gather data that would help the sites turn a profit. I think of it as "tracktivism", and have never liked the idea of asking people to give up their personal data and allow others to monitor their interests in exchange for convenient activism.
Apparently I was not alone; after spending millions of dollars to attract visitors last year, in the end voter.com only had 170,000 email addresses and profiles to sell. Hopefully would-be buyers will head the advice that Jonah Seiger gave in the Standard's story: "I would hope that any reputable entity would think long and hard about the value of this list before buying it." You can view the story online at: http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,22894,00.html.
WSJ reports on the "revenge of the dot orgs"
"Dot-Com Decline Turns Into Lift For the Dot-Orgs", according to a March 12 story in the Wall Street Journal, reporting on the Internet trend underway to convert dot com sites into dot org sites. The article, by Jim Carlton, focused on various sites and causes that are converting from for-profit to non-profit status. It also reported that a former political dot com site, e-thepeople.com, has been merged with the Democracy Project, a nonprofit site. Carlton reported that "officials of the money-losing e-thePeople.com Web site cite decidedly noneconomic reasons for their decision being announced today to donate the entity to the Democracy Project, a nonprofit political-information site based in New York. That nonprofit will in turn be renamed e-thePeople.org. The private company's executives say they concluded the site was better suited as a public contribution than a commercial venture."
The failure of the political dot coms underscores what we at the California Voter Foundation have said and practiced for seven years: there is plenty of commercial political information already available; what voters want and need from the Internet is noncommercial information from nonpartisan sources that they can trust.
Pew survey finds people are engaged but time is a barrier
The public's trust in the nonprofit sector was underscored by a recent study conducted by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change. Released on January 31, the survey found that the American people are active and engaged in their communities and view local police departments, churches, nonprofits, friends, neighbors, and parent/teacher organizations as the top problem solvers.
The most interesting finding in the study was determining the biggest barriers to citizen engagement: "In addition to basic time constraints, many Americans (41%) just don't know how to get involved, who they should call or where they should go" according to the survey release.
This survey also underscores what we've believed and practiced at CVF: people are busy, and by making reliable information accessible to the public on the Internet, we make it much easier, and therefore more likely, for people to be involved in public life.
The survey release is available online at http://www.pewtrusts.com/News/DocDisplay.cfm?DocID=413&Source=PP.
Coverage of CA Supreme Court hearing on Griset case
In a recent CVF-NEWS, I wrote about the Griset case, an anonymous political speech case before the California Supreme Court. If you're interested in reading about the oral arguments before the court, see this article from the San Francisco Recorder: http://www.callaw.com/stories/edt0308a.shtml.
City of Los Angeles mandates electronic filing of campaign finance reports
Congrats to the Los Angeles City Council for approving a new ordinance requiring candidates for city offices who raise $25,000 or more to file their campaign finance disclosure reports over the Internet. The ordinance came at the urging of the L.A. Ethics Commission, which has been doing a fabulous job of providing Internet access to local political data on its web site despite the absence of an electronic filing mandate. The commission has already developed a voluntary, web-based electronic filing program that requires no software and can be used by candidates free of charge. In a news release announcing the program, Ethics Commission director LeeAnn Pelham said, "A requirement that ensures timely and easy public access to information about how City elections are financed helps citizens keep government accountable".
To view the data already accessible through the commission, visit http://www.lacity.org/ETH.
That's all for this week. I hope you are all enjoying the first week of Spring!
-- Kim Alexander, California Voter Foundation
firstname.lastname@example.org, 916-325-2120, www.calvoter.org
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This page was first published on March 21, 2001 | Last updated on March 21, 2001
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