In 2008, the Obama campaign enlisted the help of Facebook and Google bigwigs to help raise massive sums from a lot of small donors. Back then, the key was just a few pieces of data—today, that data mining effort has been expanded to a huge and very creepy degree.
Mother Jones has a great profile of Obama for America's data czar Harper Reed and how he's transformed the campaign into an information crunching machine that knows more about you than you think. Maybe you're like the two million people who signed up for OFA 's social network back in 2008? Poof, the campaign has the information on your Facebook profile. Did you sign up for OFA's online organizing tool, Dashboard? Then virtually everything you do from signing petitions to writing messages is mined for information that's used to make sure you get the right fundraising email, the correctly scripted call from a phone bank, and the right pitch when a canvasser knocks on your door.
And that's just the beginning. Even if you haven't volunteered yourself to the campaign, they've got a ton of information that comes from five major sources. Mother Jones reports:
There's your basic voter file, publicly available information provided by each state, which includes your name, address, and voting record. The party's file, compiled by partisan organizations like VoteBuilder, includes more detailed information. Did you vote in a caucus? Did you show up at a straw poll? Did you volunteer for a candidate? Did you bring snacks to a grassroots meet-up? Did you talk to a canvasser about cap-and-trade? Contribution data, which the campaign compiles itself, includes both public information that campaigns disclose to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and nonpublic data like the names of small-dollar donors.
Of course, data collection isn't especially new in politics, but what's surprising is the size and scope of the Obama campaign's efforts. Rather than outsource its data problem to a shadowy political consulting firm, OFA is doing the work house with experienced technology startup gurus at the helm. We'll know in November whether or not it works, but in the meantime, we can't help but feel a little exposed. [Mother Jones]