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Washington State Allowing People to Register to Vote Through Facebook

Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

You can like the presidential candidates on Facebook. You can comment on their pages on Facebook. And pretty soon, you might even be able to vote for them on Facebook.

On Wednesday, the state of Washington announced that it will be the first state to allow people to register to vote in the presidential election via Facebook. The decision apparently comes as yet another effort to encourage more voter participation and make it easier for people to ‘get involved.”

Online voter registration has existed in Washington since 2008, but the latest effort to increase voter participation is designed for users who already have a Facebook account.

Through a software application interface jointly developed by Facebook and Microsoft Corp. at no cost to the state, users wishing to register online to vote will be able to do so on the official Facebook page of the secretary of state.

To complete the registration process, an applicant must provide a name and birth date, which Facebook already collects from its users’ profiles, and a state identification number or driver’s license number, said Shane Hamlin, the state’s co-director of elections.

But Hamlin said the additional data is not shared with the social media network, which says it has more than 900 million users worldwide.

I’m not too surprised by this. In the next 10-20 years, I predict we’ll get to the point where all electoral votes are done over the Internet. However, I’m not so sure about Facebook being the one to promote it. I’ve said before that Facebook isn’t exactly a beacon of privacy. And now you’re going to hand over your driver’s license number over to them? If you want to register to vote online, that’s fine.  Just use a company that people actually trust with their personal data.

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