John Phillips Comments on “Votizen, for Viewing Your Friends’ Voting Records” Article

In 2009, David Binetti, a Web entrepreneur who helped build the federal government’s Web portal USA.gov, began collecting the voter registration records of 200 million Americans. The data—from several hundred state, county, and city registrars—made for an unholy collection of obsolete file formats, from floppy disks to an 18-inch roll of magnetic tape made for a 1951 UNIVAC mainframe. Binetti and his staff spent two years loading all of it into a searchable, sortable database that’s 1,000 gigabytes large. That was the first massive step in building Votizen, a website with the not-so-modest goal of coining “a new political currency based on voter-to-voter connections…”

Campaigns already recruit supporters and volunteers through social networks. For candidates to justify another micro-targeting expense, Votizen will have to recruit a critical mass of the most well-connected voters. So far, it claims 40,000 users who have tried to nudge at least some of their 1.3 million voting friends. Binetti says he hasn’t settled on the fees he plans to charge for access to them. The site’s survival will come down to “how much does it cost them to recruit the supporter and how much can they mark that up when they sell the supporter to the candidate,” says John Aristotle Phillips, co-founder of Aristotle, a political data mining shop that works for Republicans and Democrats…

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