I wrote earlier this week about the internet protest against SOPA and PIPA, an event which is now being deemed the "internet blackout." One of the ways word was spread about the even was by internet petitions like Stop the Wall and Stop American Censorship, and Google's anti-SOPA petition, and others. ReadWriteWeb estimated that a total of 7.5 million people signed petitions (it is unknown how many of those were duplicates from people signing more than one).
Considering this is proposed U.S. legislation, and there are only about 300 million people in the United States, and even allowing for the fact that activists may have signed multiple petitions multiple times, it's obvious that the idea of internet censorship gets A LOT of people fired up (as well it should).
So now, what is going to happen to those internet petitions?
What is going to happen with all of the data that was gathered by those who signed the petitions?
Yes, the numbers will probably be used for lobbying purposes, but the actual signatures cannot be used for any official purpose by the U.S. Houses of Congress or by the President. Mostly, that data was gathered for the benefit of the petition hosts.
Google says (emphasis mine),
"Your first name and last initial may be published publicly as part of the petition to Congress. Your email address may be used to send you updates on SOPA/PIPA and other Internet policy initiatives. Your zip code is used to display the groundswell across the country and inform the appropriate members of Congress for your district and state. That’s it. Your personal information is in no way connected to any other Google services or Google account."
So, Google now has about 4.5 million e-mail addresses of civil libertarians which it can and will contact in regard to any "internet policy initiative," including informational e-mails from it's paid advertisers on these topics and...surprise...fund-raising efforts from those paid advertisers. If you signed that petition, get ready for an onslaught of spam from just about every political organization that knows how to use e-mail.
So what's the good news? We've written extensively here on WebRev that polls are a good way to increase blog readership. Why? Because people just love to give their opinions. The petition takes the poll a step further by requiring the respondent to give their contact information in order to particiapte. This allows the petition host to gather information for a newsletter, or other e-mail contact. Of course we know all of our readers here are ethical and would not sell or share their lists without the express permission of the people on that list. Used strategically, a petition can be a way to quickly gather contact information for a target demographic.