Chapter 19. United States’ Eightmaps

The Unintended Negative Consequences of Open Data

Summary: In 2008, voters in California were presented with a choice regarding the legal right of same-sex couples to marry. Proposition 8, which passed successfully on November 4, 2008, made same-sex marriage illegal in the state. Given the strong opinions on both sides of the issue, it is not surprising that debate did not conclude after the final ballot was counted. In 2009, the anonymous creator(s) of launched a tool providing detailed information on supporters of Prop 8. The site collected information made public through state campaign finance disclosure laws and overlaid that information onto a Google map of the state. Through Eightmaps, users could find the names, approximate locations, amount donated, and, where available, employers of individuals who donated money to support Prop 8 and stop same-sex marriage in the state. While the site is no longer live, and a federal court eventually found Prop 8 unconstitutional in 2010, Eightmaps demonstrates how the increased computability and reusability of open data—especially data related to contentious issues like same-sex marriage—might be used in unexpected ways that not only create major privacy concerns for citizens, but could also lead to harassment and threats based on political disagreements.

Impact: Solving Public Problems—Data-Driven Engagement

Key Takeaways:

  • Open data ...

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