Your Privacy is Burnt Toast — The “O” knows who you are and what you buy!

Russ Steele

As I listened to Lisa Hill from Buxton explain how her company uses 75,000 parameters from 250 purchased data bases to develop psychographic profile of the all the  households with in 20 minutes of drive time from Grass Valley. I was impressed when Lisa said they track all credit card swipes, customer value card swipes, all magazine and newspaper subscriptions, all the websites we visit and the movies we ordered.  It occurred to me on the drive home that this highly detailed information would make a powerful political tool.

No worry our socialist President did not let any grass grow under his feet, according to the Politico this morning: Obama’s data advantage

On the sixth floor of a sleek office building here, more than 150 techies are quietly peeling back the layers of your life. They know what you read and where you shop, what kind of work you do and who you count as friends. They also know who your mother voted for in the last election.

The depth and breadth of the Obama campaign’s 2012 digital operation — from data mining to online organizing — reaches so far beyond anything politics has ever seen, experts maintain, that it could impact the outcome of a close presidential election. It makes the president’s much-heralded 2008 social media juggernaut — which raised half billion dollars and revolutionized politics — look like cavemen with stone tablets.

Read more HERE:  But the article concludes: 

In addition, by harnessing the growing power of Facebook and other online sources, the campaign is building what some see as an unprecedented data base to develop highly specific profiles of potential voters. This allows the campaign to tailor messages directly to them — depending on factors such as socio-economic level, age and interests.

The data also allows the campaign to micro-target a range of dollar solicitations online depending on the recipient. In 2008, the campaign was the first to maximize online giving — raising hundreds of millions of dollars from small donors. This time, they are constantly experimenting and testing to expand the donor base.

When Former President Bill Clinton wandered off the reservation and said that Romney was a good business man, then had to recant his words. One wonders what the “O” data collection team had on Bill. Maybe is list of the porn sites he had visited in the last month, or the sex toys he brought on line.


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

16 Responses to Your Privacy is Burnt Toast — The “O” knows who you are and what you buy!

  1. Sean says:

    Lisa Wasserman Schulz indicate prior to the Wisconsin recall election that it was a test run of the Democrats ground game. I wonder how the “micro-targeting” worked with a couple that both worked in retail where one spouse’s income is equal to the cost of some state employees’ health care benefit and the other spouses income equal to their retirement benefit.

  2. Dena says:

    I used to make many of my purchases in cash but in the last 2 or 3 years, the hidden inflation has been going up so fast that I find myself using a credit card more that ever. In the last few month I switched gas purchases from cash to credit card because at $40 a fill up, was eating my pocket cash to fast. That’s a sad thing to say when you consider I like to have about $200 on hand to cover pocket expenses. About all I use cash for now is very small purchases like fast food. As for checks, most of the time they are more trouble than they are worth, however I haven’t gone to online bill pay yet.
    Guilty as charged.

  3. stevefrisch says:

    Although I may at times share your concerns about the use of data about peoples habits consumption and spending habits, I am fascinated by the consistent double standard displayed in your framing of issues. You are “impressed” when Buxton uses the data to explore siting retail big box development in Grass Valley. You are appalled when someone would use this data for political purposes.

    But the use of such data to micro-taget voters for specific messaging did not begin with what you call a “socialist” President. The use of proprietary data bases obtained from credit card companies, private businesses that use rewards cards, and a myriad of other sources, was common practice within the Republican party for years, and was a major factor in Karl Rove’s 2004 Presidential campaign strategy on behalf of George Bush.

    For years Republicans in California have used exactly such micro-targeting efforts to identify the pockets of voters who could help them maintain their tenuous hold on minority veto power over majority voter positions. It is a poorly held secret in California that if one qualifies as a Republican candidate they get access to these data bases, and that they are a considerable tool and advantage. Just ask any campaign professional and they will tell you.

    But in 2008 candidate Obama turned the tables on the Republican strategy, and used technology and micro-targeting to his advantage. And now he is some sort of Big Brother socialist for using the very technology that Republicans have used, and that American business has used, for years, to get us to vote for candidates that do not represent our interests, or that convince us to buy Joy over Dawn.

    And this year, Republicans, and SuperPACS are realizing that they can deploy this technology to their advantage as well.

    According to a March 15 Reuters article, “Republican political operatives, some with deep financial backing from the billionaire Koch brothers and others, are unleashing about a half dozen major projects that take advantage of advanced database technologies to manage campaigns and target voters with personalized messages. ”

    The Republican effort is described here: “Called Themis, the independent group is the most ambitious of the many conservative political technology projects now in development. People with direct knowledge of the group as well as political technology industry veterans say it is backed by the Koch brothers, although their names do not appear on an annual regulatory filing and Koch Industries spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.”

    The full article can be found here:

    So, while you are busy calling the President a socialist, and implying that his some sort of evil Machiavellian mastermind on one hand while being an idiot on the other, perhaps you should look to your own house and level the same critique; or at least acknowledge that we are in the 21st century, and that this is not some sort of conspiracy to find out what erectile dysfunction medication you use, it is the state of our current technology, and everyone is going to use it to their full advantage.

  4. Steven,

    My reference to President Obama was based on his actions and past associations, and was not specifically germane to the article. Impressed by Buxton was not a good choice of words, dismayed may have been a better choice. I have cut up my customer values cards and will be going cash as much as possible, more in protest than any real impact, my purchase trail is already established. It is just disconcerting to learn how every card swipe and purchase is logged and analyzed. I think we all know that in the back of our minds the data is being collected, but seeing how the data can be used is a bit disconcerting. I wrote about the single guy who spilled oil on his garage floor and was telling his married sister about it and she told him to go to the store a buy baby diapers to wipe up the oil. He used his customer card. In the following weeks his mail box was flooded with ads for baby related products.

    You are correct Karl Rowe was very effective in using voter history and voter profiles to target population groups for ad campaigns and get out the vote drives. I do not think that Obama is smart enough to be the evil Machiavellian mastermind. Up until recently I thought maybe Axelrod was, but now that is even being called in to question. That leaves Valery Jarrett as the possible evil Machiavellian mastermind and puppet master. Every time Obama gets off his Teleprompter, his team has to go into recovery mode. That is not the sign of powerful thinker and Machiavellian mastermind.

    I pleased to hear that the Republican are also using data base mining tools to target the voters, especially independent voters. Given the number of political phone calls and survey call we are receiving here at the house and office we are on someones target list.

  5. stevefrisch says:

    A reasoned, specific and thoughtful response. I appreciate it.

    Granted, I may have misinterpreted the use of the word impressed. mea culpa

    And kudos to you for recognizing the inconsistency of simultaneously thinking the President is incompetent and Machiavellian.

    Finally, as I have stated here on several occasions, I am no particular fan of the President’s strategy. For example, I would have focused on the economy and jobs before health care; I would have withdrawn US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan earlier; I would have adopted and championed many (or almost all) of the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission; I would have frozen federal salaries and linked them to market comparable rates achieved through attrition, as an example of commitment. But Valerie Jarrett is one very smart person…..she may be the most under rated White House advisers of our time.

  6. Greg Goodknight says:

    Machiavellian and evil genius are two different things. For example, the Clintonian “politics of personal destruction” is right out of The Prince; applied Machiavelli at its most effective. And one can easily say just about every dictator who has a short life out of the box was an incompetent Machiavellian.

  7. stevefrisch says:

    Now who is worried about using data to microtarget voters. Just think the Koch’s may plow $400 million into the 2012 election cycle.

    • Todd Juvinall says:

      Excellent! The Koch’s money is private isn’t it? You libs have all the press except FOX and I would say that is worth a few billion.

      • stevefrisch says:

        I thought we had a free press Todd, isn’t that what you support? If you think liberals own the press perhaps you should read more.

      • Todd Juvinall says:

        Free press sure, but disseminated by liberals. Funny thing how you libs put our news below the fold, on the back page or the end of the story while liberal crap is above the fold in the first paragraph on always on the front page. Dealt with that for thirty five years. Yep, free speech what we support nit you leftwing censors.

        Perhaps you should rad more StevF.

      • stevefrisch says:

        Now who looks like they are hitting the Jack in the morning!

      • I am a milk guy who spells crappy. You a Jack guy who spells better?

      • Michael Anderson says:

        Jack or Jose?

        I’ll let youse guyz decide…


  8. Brad Croul says:

    “But it’s the data mining and micro-targeting that’s the new, exciting frontier. “We are constantly developing and field-testing new products. At the moment, data-mining products are hot,” says Phillips. According to AzCapitolTimes, the idea of micro-targeting dates back about 10 years. Karl Rove was one its architects, resulting in a national database used by Republicans called the Voter Vault. The 2008 Barack Obama campaign led Democrats to create a rival, and some say stronger, database of their own, called VoteBuilder.
    The insight of political microtargeting is this: that voters are just another kind of consumer, and a candidate is just another product to be sold. As one Republican microtargeter put it to AzCapitolTimes: “I’d be very surprised if country music listeners don’t get Republican messaging in their Pandora stream within the next year.””

    What do you know, political microtargeting is the spawn of that evil genius, Karl Rove.

    What a hoot! Obama is just trying to keep up with Republican machiavellian machinations.

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