Entries in applications (4)


Voter Registration? There’s an App for That

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Candidates are already using social media to get out the vote. Now some are asking, “Why not use social media to register to vote?”

As early as next week, Washington state residents will be able to do just that via Facebook.

The application, which was developed through a partnership among the state government, Facebook and Microsoft Corp., is the next step in digitizing voter registration in Washington. Along with 12 other states, Washington allows voters to register online. Washington is the first state to allow voter registration through social media.

The project originated out of conversations with Rock the Vote, an organization that works to register young adults to vote and engage them in the political process, according to Shane Hamlin, co-director of elections in Washington.

Rock the Vote wanted to transfer responsibility for registering Washington state voters to the state itself and, in deciding how to do so, the state department of elections focused on attracting new voters via the Internet.

“We had online registration in Washington for four years, we were the second state to offer it starting in 2008, and we definitely want to grow and expand the use of online registrations because online registrations are more efficient to process,” Hamlin said. “And, frankly, people expect to be able to do things online.”

Microsoft, which has a long working relationship with Washington’s state government, developed the app at no cost. Hamlin said Facebook is a partner in the project “in the sense that they are very interested in doing this.”

While the Facebook app does require users to allow the application to access their personal information, such as their name and birth date, this is information already saved to users’ Facebook profiles. Hamlin emphasized that other identifying information, such as the driver’s license or state ID card number that voters will still need to provide in order to register, will not be stored within Facebook’s databases.

Hamlin said that while the app is displayed within a Facebook skin, voters registering through the application are using a system within Washington state’s voter registration website. Users also must verify their residency in Washington State, which is automatically verified by the state’s records, and give the government permission to use the signature it has on file to complete the form. Both of these processes are handled solely by the state’s secure website. “Facebook is not capturing this information,” Hamlin said.

The state hopes that the application will encourage a wide range of new voters to register, as well as draw attention to its My Vote tool, a personalized resource available to every registered voter in the state of Washington. The site allows voters to update their address, view candidate statements and review which elections they have voted in, among other things.

Hamlin said that while the app was not developed to target any specific group of potential voters, “the younger demographic is a smaller proportion of our registered demographic, so that maybe is a way to grow registration in that demographic.”

“We’re really excited,” Hamlin said. “We do really think that this is going to increase the number of people that are registered to vote and also spread awareness of the availability of our My Vote tool.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Who Wants to Be an Astronaut? NASA to Hire Civilian Candidates

Chris Cohen/NASA(HOUSTON) -- NASA called for all willing candidates to apply for a spot in the next astronaut class by midnight Friday. It’s a leap of faith because there is no great space race anymore and Newt Gingrich is the only candidate who even mentions a future in space for the U.S.

Nevertheless, NASA said that as of late Friday, it had received 5,700 applications, more than ever before. Only about a dozen new astronauts will be chosen.

NASA is building a capsule called Orion, and the rocket to launch it remains to be determined. It could be a Delta or a Falcon, or a new NASA rocket on steroids called the SLS (Space Launch System).

The astronauts are all dressed up with no place to go because until the president and Congress agree on a new mission for them, the only game in town is the International Space Station, which veterans privately say ranks as one of the most boring missions on the books. The ISS has a crew of six, all launched, for now, in Russian Soyuz capsules. Between them, the crew members only do 35 hours of research a week; the rest of the time is spent maintaining their orbiting colony.

NASA’s most ambitious mission, at the moment, is the robotic Mars Curiosity Rover -- no astronauts needed -- which is humming along to Mars to land in August.

What would an astronaut even have to look forward to besides fixing the toilet on the space station? They have no hot showers, no pizza, no ice cream. A stiff drink? Forget about it. But the view is great, and they have Internet now on the space station. The benefits are fabulous (lifetime health care -- the perks of being a human guinea pig for NASA, which wants to know about vision loss, muscle mass loss, decreased bone density and radiation exposure).

Salaries for civilian astronaut candidates are based on the federal government’s general schedule pay scale for grades GS-12 through GS-13. Each person’s grade is determined according to his or her academic achievements and experience. Currently, a GS-12 starts at $65,140 per year and a GS-13 can earn up to $100,701 per year.

Military astronaut candidates are assigned to the Johnson Space Center and remain on active duty status for pay, benefits, leave and other similar matters.

NASA currently has 57 active astronauts. It says it needs more because a person can only stay in space six months at a time. After that, you exceed the allowable limits for radiation exposure, and it takes months to recover from a tour of duty on the space station. Not every astronaut is willing to commit to the three years it takes to train for a mission to the ISS. So they are having a tough time staffing the space station.

Here’s where to apply: … If you think you have the right stuff.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Law Protects Hackers' Ability to Screen DUI Checkpoints

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Want to avoid DUI checkpoints? There are apps for that.

And while lawmakers called on smartphone companies last week to ban the programs that could enable drunk drivers to steer clear of police traps, legal experts say the law protects hackers who install unapproved software onto their phones.

So far, Research in Motion, the company that makes Blackberry phones, is the only company that has complied with the request from four Democratic senators. But even if companies were to ban all DUI dodging apps from their online store, customers would still have a legal right to bypass security software independently.

An exemption was granted in 2010 by the Library of Congress, the office that oversees copyrights, making it impossible for companies to sue individuals for circumventing the company's proprietary security software.

Under the revised rules, it's not illegal for wireless telephone users to hack into a company's security system to access programs that the company has previously disabled if the intent of the hacker is to simply use those programs. This is cited on the government's website as exempt from the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, passed during the Clinton administration.

"Jailbreaking" or "rooting" a phone is a term used by hackers to describe the process in which a smartphone is unhinged from company control -- it allows for the installation of unapproved programs. Savvy customers could load up the DUI dodging software as long as the program wasn't obtained illegally.

But surely an app that warns the driver of a nearby police DUI checkpoint must be illegal? Not so -- mobile applications such as Trapster work by allowing individuals to report the location of a police DUI checkpoint or speeding camera nearby thus creating a so-called "Trap Map" displayable on the dashboard of a car.

Because the handheld app gathers information through ordinary citizens phoning in the location of checkpoint, legal experts say that there is no way to write a law banning this without encroaching on our right to freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution.

Emma Llansó, a fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology specializing in First Amendment issues, she doesn't believe that the senators have any legal recourse to outlaw the apps.

And because of the ban's likely violation of the Constitution, Congress will likely never create a law banning the app.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Why College Applications Skyrocketed This Year 

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(SYRACUSE, N.Y.) -- All across the nation, colleges are reporting a record number of applications received for the class of 2015.

Harvard College, in Cambridge, Mass., reported a 15 percent increase in overall applicants from last year, to nearly 35,000 for roughly 2,200 acceptance slots.

At Syracuse University, in Syracuse, N.Y., the admissions office has received more than 25,270 applications, setting a school record with a 13 percent increase from last year.

And at Stanford University, the school received over 34,000 applications to fill its 1,700 slots for the incoming freshmen class.

Alan Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton University and the U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy, said multiple factors are contributing to this increase.

"The job market is still quite weak, and it's not unusual when the job market is weak for students to stay in school longer or additional students to seek higher education," Krueger said. "There's also been a trend taking place where the more recent cohorts are larger - just because of the echo of the baby boom. You have an increase in the number of students who are college-age."

In Westport, Conn., Staples High School saw this year's senior class rise to a record number of 471 students, up from 386 students in the class of 2010.

"Another important factor is the Common Application form, which has made it less costly to apply to a larger number of schools," he added.

Addressing the increase from the schools' point of view, Eric Hoover, senior writer for The Chronicle of Higher Education, noted that the technology allows for colleges to recruit more heavily online.

"As recruitment has gone digital, the Web has reduced the cost and the hassles of the traditional recruit outreach," said Hoover. "It's making it easier for the colleges to reach out to students all over the country and the world."

One of the highest increases occurred at Columbia University, in New York City, whose applicant pool rose by 32 percent from last year, totaling 34,587 applications. Columbia attributes its membership in the Common Application as one of the key factors to this year's rise. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio