One person, one vote, and… Facebook?

There’s always an outcry when mobile apps asks users to login with a social network. “What do you need my Facebook for?” “Are you tracking me?” As web geeks ourselves, these thoughts cross our minds too. If you take a moment to hear us out, we think you will understand why we, like many other tech services, have chosen to use Facebook and LinkedIn to securely login to Capitol Bells, and exactly what we are and are not asking users to share from those networks. TL; DR It’s very little, and other users will never see it.

For Capitol Bells, the decision to use social network verification to register is all about security, efficiency, and maintaining a one-person-one-vote community. To put it into perspective, in order to become a registered voter, a citizen must show proof they are who they say they are, e.g. you might have to prove your citizenship status, age, or residence with government identification. Why? As a democracy, we want to ensure everyone has equal representation.

It should come to no surprise that Capitol Bells is all about democracy. Users on Capitol Bells are voting alongside each other and the hundreds of Members of Congress and thousands of Capitol Hill professionals that make up our network. It’s important that no one receives outsized representation in the app. Each vote must be authentic, or else the data they generate will be useless. Everyone should know they come from real people on Capitol Bells. 

Why specifically did we choose to use Facebook and LinkedIn for these purposes? It really boils down to efficiency and security. In an ideal scenario, Capitol Bells would have it’s own login and verification process. Securely and robustly building these services from the ground up is extremely expensive and time-consuming. As a small startup working to address a nearly impossible problem, we have chosen to prioritize focusing on our core product solution first, including growin a community from scratch and providing the best real-time legislative data in the country to base it on.

The Facebook verification process is widely accepted as the most secure and complete identity management solution of any social network online right now. They actively filter out duplicate accounts and bot spammers. Even massive services such as Airbnb have integrated with Facebook purely for this purpose; to verify their users and engender trust within their community. That is part of our vision too. 

Whether you verify through Facebook or LinkedIn, the data we actually collect is minimal, and NONE OF IT will be visible to other users. We grab your your Facebook or LinkedIn ID from the network, and we also collect your e-mail address in order to cross-reference any questionable activity. Facebook provides developers basic information for the simplest verification, which they detail while you authenticate, and which is all we use. Same for LinkedIn. Moreover, we ignore most of that data, like your name. Additionally, we give you the ability to rescind our verification under the ‘Settings’ menu in Capitol Bells.

We have plans at Capitol Bells to build our own secure OAuth logins, and we are optimistic we will get there. For those that are rubbed the wrong way by social verification, but are willing to work with us in the meantime, we truly appreciate it. We also hope the decision to add LinkedIn to the mix allows a professional alternative to Facebook too. Having options is always a good thing right?

I hope this helps clarify some of the controversy around the social network logins. We will always strive to be upfront about the data we collect, and you will always have the ability to delete any of that personal data belonging to you. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to speak out on Capitol Bells, Cloakroom, or directly by emailing us at cloakroom[at]capitolbells[dot]com.

P.S. If you still really hate this idea, don't worry, you can still use ALL the legislative data features, including live vote alerts and tallies, without logging in at all.