Many of my Facebook friends have recently said “Let’s Talk Marriage.” They’ve posted a link that takes users to a web page which, if the user is signed into their Facebook account, scours the user’s Facebook friends and tells the user who amongst their friends signed Referendum 71. Ref 71 was a 2009 Washington measure which, if passed, would have overturned the so called “Everything But Marriage Bill.” The petition to get Ref 71 on the 2009 ballot garnered the signatures of 121,757 Washington voters. Multiple parties made a public information request under the Washington Public Records Act for the names of the petition signers. SCOTUS declared in Doe v. Reed that the Public Records Act under which the release would be made was constitutional and then remanded to the District Court, who made the determination to release the signatures.
The signatures were released in October, 2011 and have been categorized in an online database found at WhoSigned.Org . Facebook App Developer Justin Voskuh has taken it a step further and created the “Let’s Talk Marriage” app (link above) which searches for matches between a user’s friends and petition signers. This app is being used by opponents of the petitions for Referendum 74. The petition will be circulated this month. Should the petition gain 120,000 signatures Washington voters will determine this fall whether or not to support the recently passed Marriage Equality Law.
Thousands will sign the petition, but what the petition probably wont tell them is that, like with ref 71, their information will likely be released to the public, and then distributed with the help of social media. The threat of the information release is surely enough to deter signers, so could it be that whether the signature requirement is met comes down to the privacy concerns of the signers, and not their politics?