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November 21, 2012

More "Smart Power", Big Brother Style

The President of the United States has collected a LOT of information about you. Now that the election is over, the Democrats are trying to decide who to share it with:

If you voted this election season, President Obama almost certainly has a file on you. His vast campaign database includes information on voters’ magazine subscriptions, car registrations, housing values and hunting licenses, along with scores estimating how likely they were to cast ballots for his reelection.

And although the election is over, Obama’s database is just getting started.

Democrats are pressing to expand and redeploy the most sophisticated voter list in history, beginning with next year’s gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey and extending to campaigns for years to come.

...To maintain their advantage, Democrats say they must navigate the inevitable intraparty squabbles over who gets access now that the unifying forces of a billion-dollar presidential campaign are gone.

“If this is all we do with this technology, I think it will be a wasted opportunity,” said Michael Slaby, the Obama campaign’s chief integration and innovation officer.

It has been a never-ending source of amazement to the Editorial Staff how the press that obsessed over privacy concerns during the Bush years now proudly and glowingly lauds the Obama administration for doing the same things and (in some cases) doing far more invasive things. During the Bush years, we were continually warned about the dangers of unchecked power. Nowadays, such natterings are relegated to the status of afterthoughts:

Obama was able to collect and use personal data largely free of the restrictions that govern similar efforts by private companies. Neither the Federal Trade Commission, which has investigated the handling of personal data by Google, Facebook and other companies, nor the Federal Election Commission has jurisdiction over how campaigns use such information, officials at those agencies say.

Privacy advocates say the opportunity for abuse — by Obama, Romney or any other politician’s campaign — is serious, as is the danger of hackers stealing the data. Voters who willingly gave campaigns such information may not have understood that it would be passed on to the party or other candidates, even though disclosures on Web sites and Facebook apps warn of that possibility.

Chris Soghoian, an analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FTC technologist, said voters should worry that the interests of politicians and commercial data brokers have aligned, making legal restrictions of data collection less likely.

“They’re going to be loath to regulate those companies if they are relying on them to target voters,” he said.

Do you really want political campaigns to amass enormous databases with information about the magazines you subscribe to, the value of your house, the political affiliations of your Facebook friends, and your voting history?

We guess it's OK as long as they pinkie-swear only to share your information with their closest friends.

Update: "targeted sharing" through Facebook:

..more than 1 million Obama backers who signed up for the app gave the campaign permission to look at their Facebook friend lists. In an instant, the campaign had a way to see the hidden young voters. Roughly 85% of those without a listed phone could be found in the uploaded friend lists. What’s more, Facebook offered an ideal way to reach them. “People don’t trust campaigns. They don’t even trust media organizations,” says Goff. “Who do they trust? Their friends.”

The campaign called this effort targeted sharing. And in the final weeks of the campaign, they blitzed the supporters who had signed up for the app with requests to share specific online content with specific friends simply by clicking a button. More than 600,000 supporters followed through with more than 5 million contacts, asking their friends to register to vote, give money, vote or look at a video specifically designed to change their mind. A geek squad in Chicago created models from vast data sets to find the best approaches for each potential voter. “We are not just sending you a banner ad,” explains Dan Wagner, the Obama campaign’s 29-year-old head of analytics, who helped oversee the project. “We are giving you relevant information from your friends.”

Early tests of the system found statistically significant changes in voter behavior. People whose friends sent them requests to vote early and register to vote, for example, were more likely to do so than similar potential voters who were not contacted. That confirmed a trend already noted in the political-science literature: online social networks have the power to change voting behavior. A study of 61 million people on Facebook during the 2010 midterms found that people who saw photos of their friends voting on Election Day were more likely to cast a ballot themselves. “It is much more effective to stimulate these real-world ties,” says James Fowler, a professor at the University of California at San Diego, who co-authored the study.

Campaign pros have known this for years. A phone call or knock on the door from someone who lives in your neighborhood is far more effective than appeals from out-of-state volunteers or robo-calls. Before social networks like Facebook, however, connecting a supportive friend to a would-be voter was a challenge. E-mail, for instance, connects one person to the campaign. Facebook can connect the campaign, through one person, to 500 or more friends.

It's a good thing the GOP sucks at this kind of thing, because otherwise the media would be forced to point out just how creepy and intrusive it is.

Posted by Cassandra at November 21, 2012 07:27 AM

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The Patriot Act, the expanded Patriot Act, NDAA Sections 1021 and 1022, and National Defense Resources Preparedness (NDRP) executive order, the FAA Reauthorization Act allowing for expanded drone activity in the continental US (both public and privately owned drones), the militarization of our police forces under the 1044 Program, Homeland Security, TSA.

Now a proposed Senate bill ostensibly protecting Americans’ e-mail privacy has been rewritten to give government agencies more surveillance power. The vote is next week.

All of which proves the 'boiled frog' fable maligns the intelligence of frogs but explains the stupidity of Americans.

Posted by: George Pal at November 21, 2012 10:41 AM