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Democrats rat out non-voters to their Facebook friends

October 25, 2010 |  3:27 pm

Is it cutting-edge voter mobilization, or just a bit creepy?

The California Democratic Party unveiled a new tool in its kit of get-out-the-vote operations Monday: a first-of-its-kind Facebook application that sifts through a user’s friends list, matches it with the friends’ party registrations and voting histories and pops out a list people who vote Democratic but don’t regularly vote.

It then encourages users to tell their non-voting friends to cast a ballot Nov. 2.

“We’re asking their friends to help us nudge those voters,” said Tenoch Flores, a spokesman for the party.

With 15.4 million voting-age Facebookers in California, the party says the tool could be crucial to mobilizing hard-to-reach younger voters.

"The California Democratic Party has identified hundreds of thousands of key voters who don’t necessarily vote in every election, people that could make the difference between winning and losing this November," the Friend Out the Vote website says. "See which of your Facebook Friends are in that critical voter group."

Flores said the development of the Facebook app was made possible because of funding from Chris Kelly, Facebook’s former chief privacy officer, who lost this year’s Democratic primary for state attorney general.

Flores dismissed any fears about the mining of voter data of people’s Facebook friends without their friends’ permission. (Those using the app must grant permission to search through their friends.) "In the same way that we target voters with direct mail, this is part of the same strategy for us," he said. "It’s no creepier than getting a piece of mail saying vote for candidate X or candidate Y."

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

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