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Government Privacy Programming Politics

Pols Blur Line Between Data Mining, Cyberstalking 115

Posted by timothy
from the selfless-public-servants-all dept.
theodp writes "Mother Jones reports on Obama's Digital Gurus, the top-secret team of analytics engineers and scientists led by hipster CTO Harper Reed who work on text analytics, social network/media analysis, web personalization, computational advertising, and online experiments & testing from the campaign's Chicago HQ and satellite offices. For OFA (Obama for America), writes Tim Murphy, there is no such thing as Too Much Information. 'In terms of just the sheer amount of data that political candidates have on you,' says UNC Prof Daniel Kreiss, 'I think everyone finds it creepy.' Still playing catch-up to OFA in its data efforts is Team Romney, which reportedly hired former employees from places like Google Analytics, Apple, Ominture, and Overstock.com in an attempt to reverse engineer the Obama campaign's strategy."
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Pols Blur Line Between Data Mining, Cyberstalking

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  • by davydagger (2566757) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @05:28PM (#41724287)
    Are they using this to campaign in the traditional sense or is the line between PR/Advertisement and "Spy Agency" is growing thinner and thinner. After all, the CIA started merely reading russian newspapers and expanded from there.

    Are they gathering information to conduct survailence, and perhaps the type of "blag bag jobs" that become easier and deniable after conducting lengthy intellegence gathering on your subject. Where is the line.

    What safeguards do we have in place to prevent these intellegence gathering PR agencies from:
    Spreading disinformation on enemies, that sounds plausable, based on information they've gathered.
    Digging up dirt on politicians enemies and disemenating it.
    Using the social network to intimidate non-likely voters by having their friends shame and intimidate them into voting.

    Looking up information on critics, and digging up dirt on critics

    Digging up dirt on potential voters to keep them in line with some form of blackmail.

    What system do we have to investigate these people should their massive campaigns succeed and their clients now have the power to pardon or otherwise shield them from the legal proccess after being elected.

    What happens when these PR goons become the new prateroian guard?
    • Digging up dirt on potential voters to keep them in line with some form of blackmail.

      Which is why the secret vote has been important, and will continue to be important. A pity not everyone is committed to it [wsj.com].

      • by khallow (566160)
        Secret vote only works, if you're voting for the candidates you think you're voting for. I gather there's supposed to be some ways to certify a secret ballot so that you can verify that your vote was counted as you expected without revealing that information to others.
    • by theodp (442580) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @05:55PM (#41724425)

      From Obama for America PRIVACY POLICY [barackobama.com]: "we may use personal information we collect...for any other purpose for which the information was collected....We may store and process personal information in the United States and other countries... You may also opt out of allowing OFA to collect your geographic location by changing the location settings on your mobile device..."

      • by Anonymous Coward

        for any other purpose for which the information was collected

        Gotta love that line. We won't tell you what those purposes might be, but we give ourselves permission to collect information and use it for...whatever we darn please.

      • Durring the 1950s, Hoover and the FBI vehenatly denied the black bag jobs they were doing, and that all suspected communists were throughly investigated and everyone who wasn't a communist was cleared.

        The truth was diffrent, according to newly released documents.

        Google also states that its vast troves of data it collects on you are soley to assist you, and it never uses your data for mallicous means.

        I am glad that Obama's campaign values privacy, I really am. But I also take such bold statements with a grai
    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @06:05PM (#41724465)

      What happens when these PR goons become the new prateroian guard?

      Er, we stand up, yell "Praetorian!," and then wait patiently while he throws his water bottle away, draws his sword, and charges us. Then we stab him to death, steal his horse, and ride to the capital where, after a series of hilarious and tragic blunders and some compulsory phy ed, we kill the emperor.

    • Look at what the media did to Ross Perot and Ron Paul. Ridicule them it did. The media also loved Obama in 2007. Loved him, it did. They media can do whatever it wants to.

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        Look at what the media did to Ross Perot and Ron Paul. Ridicule them it did. The media also loved Obama in 2007. Loved him, it did. They media can do whatever it wants to.

        Yoda is that you?

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Digging up dirt on potential voters to keep them in line with some form of blackmail.

      What system do we have to investigate these people should their massive campaigns succeed and their clients now have the power to pardon or otherwise shield them from the legal proccess after being elected.

      Already demonstrated in Canada - the Robocall scandal. Basically the Conservative government *allegedly* (because there's no direct proof) called up a bunch of Liberal party supporters and told them their polling station

      • by dryeo (100693)

        The courts can and have declared elections void when there is evidence of voting irregularities that could have affected the election outcome. Usually this causes a bye-election but the current government has a member who refused to step down after the courts declared the election void. He claims to be waiting for the Supreme Court to order the election void.
        The last election was the dirtiest in memory with various scandals and the governments response has been to cut funding for Elections Canada, ignore th

      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        Already demonstrated in Canada - the Robocall scandal. Basically the Conservative government *allegedly* (because there's no direct proof) called up a bunch of Liberal party supporters and told them their polling station had moved. Of course, people who knew better voted at their proper polling stations, but crowds gathered at the fake locations do attest to the effectiveness at voter disenfranchisement.

        And, just so this type thing doesn't happen again, let's print it here for clarification:

        This election

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Are they using this to campaign in the traditional sense or is the line between PR/Advertisement and "Spy Agency" is growing thinner and thinner. After all, the CIA started merely reading russian newspapers and expanded from there.

      I'd suggest to dissolve CIA and other 3 letter agencies and let the hand of free market reign supreme... after all, the private sector shows a much better efficiency and drive for innovation in wagging the dog and, more important, they are not hindered by that piece of scribbling called Constitution.
      (the said agencies are already outsourcing to the private sector... taking the next logical step: why would the agencies still be needed?)

      </grin>

      • the private sector is what I am complaining about. PR agents turned into spies for hire. Hollywood, and the media corps at the center of all this.
    • "This guy managed to get a 4+ insightful first post on Slashdot, and he's an attention risk."

      "OK, make sure he has other things to worry about for a while".

    • by cayenne8 (626475)

      Using the social network to intimidate non-likely voters by having their friends shame and intimidate them into voting.

      Would actually work on anyone?

      • of course it would. What if they paid or blackmailed your girlfriend into breaking up with you over it. What if they told your boss there would be consequences for the company.

        How would anyone ever know?

        I know enough dimwitts who put party affiilation before their friends. They do this, because they actively believe the otherside is raping babies and out to get them, and there is a giant conspiracy at works against them, and that dissent should not be tollerated, and that anyone who disagrees with them was
    • Are they using this to campaign in the traditional sense or is the line between PR/Advertisement and "Spy Agency" is growing thinner and thinner. After all, the CIA started merely reading russian newspapers and expanded from there.

      CIA analyst, circa 1980: "You guys, c'mere! It's "Garfield" translated into Russian. Look at that -- that's clearly lasagna, but the caption reads "borscht"! You're going down, Commies!"

      Are they gathering information to conduct survailence, and perhaps the type of "blag bag jobs" that become easier and deniable after conducting lengthy intellegence gathering on your subject. Where is the line.

      Blagging [urbandictionary.com], while generally innocuous, is not to be confused with blathing [youtube.com], a much more serious offense.

      What safeguards do we have in place to prevent these intellegence gathering PR agencies from: Spreading disinformation on enemies, that sounds plausable, based on information they've gathered. Digging up dirt on politicians enemies and disemenating it. Using the social network to intimidate non-likely voters by having their friends shame and intimidate them into voting. Looking up information on critics, and digging up dirt on critics. Digging up dirt on potential voters to keep them in line with some form of blackmail. What system do we have to investigate these people should their massive campaigns succeed and their clients now have the power to pardon or otherwise shield them from the legal proccess after being elected. What happens when these PR goons become the new prateroian guard?

      What's with the questions? Are you writing a paper? Nice try, pal. OK, nobody answer him. He needs to quit partying, make a class or two, and work this out for himself. It builds character. It's called basic research: try G

  • text analytics, social network/media analysis, web personalization, computational advertising, and online experiments & testing

    What the fuck does any of these even mean?

    If you scrap facebook to send out targeted spam, then just say so.

    • by bfree (113420)

      If you scrap (sic) facebook

      Presuming you meant scrape (cause we know they aren't scrapping it) the more interesting question to me is: what is to stop facebook and/or google (maybe others) from picking a side and providing an interface to their chosen candidates campaign? If one side had a direct link to mine whatever they wanted what influence would that have on the result of the election?

      • what is to stop facebook and/or google (maybe others) from picking a side and providing an interface to their chosen candidates campaign?

        The risk of alienating half their users by picking a side that they (the users) disagree with. And probably alienating a significant part of the other half given the excessive privacy violation (possibly also violating their privacy policy). Users may be the product rather than the customers, but you don't want to scare away your product either. They'd need some pretty serious quid pro quo for that to be worth it (almost certainly far more than they could realistically get).

        P.S. WTF "Pols"?? Really Slashdot

    • by Nyder (754090) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @06:44PM (#41724635) Journal

      text analytics, social network/media analysis, web personalization, computational advertising, and online experiments & testing

      What the fuck does any of these even mean?

        If you scrap facebook to send out targeted spam, then just say so.

      Don't we all pad our resume with important sounding titles for normal everyday jobs?

      text analytics means he reads what people type.
      social network/media analysis means he goes online.
      web personalization means he knows how to upload an avatar to a forum.
      computational advertising means he posts his resume online.
      online experiments means you sell sex via a webcam.

      • by lakeland (218447)

        People pad their CVs and attach fancy words to fairly mundane things but I think in your dismissal you're missing the importance of what he is saying.

        * Text analysis means he uses programs to read what people type and at least at some level infer meaning, even if it's as simple as relevant and/or sentiment.
        * social network analysis means he knows who has a lot of influence so you can concentrate on them.
        * web personalisation means everybody who visits the website he creates is given a different version
        * Com

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's a difference?!

  • by Trashcan Romeo (2675341) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @06:39PM (#41724607)
    ... call the NSA and tell them to hand over their records of all our electronic communications?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ask Nixon how that one worked out.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because if they did something illegal like that, a hero like Bradly Manning would squeal on them and we'd all know the crimes that they'd been up to.

    • by BlueStrat (756137)

      [Why doesn't Obama simply... ]... call the NSA and tell them to hand over their records of all our electronic communications?

      That's cute what you did there, talking like they haven't been doing that for years and this would be something new.

      Strat

    • ... call the NSA and tell them to hand over their records of all our electronic communications?

      And who says he hasn't?

  • by theodp (442580) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @06:47PM (#41724651)

    From the Job Boards: "We are a multi-disciplinary team of statisticians, mathematicians, software developers, general analysts and organizers - all striving for a single goal: re-electing President Obama." 1) Digital Analytics - Data Production Analyst [hiredesk.net]: MySQL, Perl, Python, Netezza, MS SQL, Vertica, Hive/Hadoop, Google Analytics, Optimizely, R, STATA, SPSS. 2) Analytics - Statistical Modeling Analyst [hiredesk.net]: (M.S./PhD preferred), R, STATA, SPSS, Weka, KNIME, SQL HTML, XML, Python, Ruby, Java, C++, Excel. 3) Digital Analytics - Modeling Analyst [hiredesk.net]: R, STATA, SPSS, SAS, Excel, Netezza, MS SQL, Vertica, Hive/Hadoop, Google Analytics, Optimizely.

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      Too bad all these supposedly smart people aren't spending their time creating solutions for this society's problems instead of playing with popularity contests like infantile highschoolers.

      • by dave420 (699308)
        They are doing just that. If they agree with Obama's position, and they are computer geniuses, it makes sense for them to help Obama by being a computer genius. Them serving coffee to advisors isn't exactly going to help as much, is it? Or not trying to get "their guy" in power again, and just coming up with solutions they think (rightly or wrongly) Romney will skull-fuck into the ground...
  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @06:48PM (#41724655)
    ...while the big telecomms and banks...the big retailers...your electric company...your natural gas company...your credit card company that knows just who you donate to...all those chunks of Corporate America that have far more in-depth information on you and far more experience at mining that data - and far, far more interest in seeing Mitt Romney elected...

    Do you suppose they even make Romney and the Republicans pay for that data, or just give it to 'em gratis?
    • I won't comment about corporate America in general, but allow me to comment on Wall Street.

      It may come as a surprise to (some of) you, but Wall Street mostly supported Obama in 2008(1). You are right though in saying that this year Wall Street seems to favor Romney. I guess you can't really bash bankers for four years and then expect them to support you.
      The point is that assuming that big business votes overwhelmingly Republican is probably not realistic.

      Big tech names have also always been generall
    • by guttentag (313541) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @08:55PM (#41725257) Journal

      ...while...your natural gas company...have far more in-depth information on you and far more experience at mining that data - and far, far more interest in seeing Mitt Romney elected...

      Do you suppose they even make Romney and the Republicans pay for that data, or just give it to 'em gratis?

      Sometimes it seems like they have lots of in-depth information, and sometimes it seems like they're couldn't tell whether I'm warming a cup of milk or cooking dinner for 8 people.

      PG&E [pge.com] bills me by the kilowatt hour for my electricity, but they can't seem to get more granular data than a therm [wikipedia.org] (100 cubic feet) when it comes to how much gas I've used. Whether I have my stove on for 5 minutes or 45 minutes, I get charged for 1.02 therms of gas that day. I've methodically tested it. It's only a couple dollars per therm, but if you use your stove every day and they're charging you $2 every time you turn it on versus the 50 cents of gas you're using, they're squeezing an extra $45 a month out of you for gas they still have in the pipeline.

      Unless... wait... <SARCASM>are you saying they do know how much of their product they deliver to us? I think you're giving them too much credit.</SARCASM>

      • by adolf (21054)

        Wait. How smart is your gas meter to know how to round-up on a daily basis?

        More importantly, why is it doing daily billing to begin with?

        I have Columbia Gas. They (a couple of years ago) replaced my meter with something "smart" that they can read with a drive-by vehicle, but it still has spinny-dials that are mechanically driven by the flow of natural gas to my house. If the spinny-dials don't agree with what I'm being charged, there are instructions on the bill itself for reporting the discrepancy and b

      • by dryeo (100693)

        Around here the gas company only actually reads the meter twice a year, the rest is just estimates. Perhaps they're doing similar?

        • Only two reads a year? lollll...man. Hope they don't read the day after you ran that extra line out to the backyard so you could deep fry a turkey. If your gas company estimates like my gas company, yours will be more than happy to estimate that one-off peak usage for each month of the next six months.
  • reverse engineer the Obama campaign's strategy.

    Do not say and do stupid shite? Do not have a questionable and shady financial background?

    Don't be a dumb-arse Republicantard?

  • WTF is a Pol (Score:4, Informative)

    by chrismcb (983081) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @07:15PM (#41724763) Homepage
    WTF is a POL? I can barely understand the summary, doesn't look like there is a lot of English in there. The first three lines has like 2 verbs. But can we at least have a summary that makes a bit of sense? Like maybe don't use abbreviations when it isn't necessary. My first thought was it was a typo and they meant Polls...
    • That makes two of us. Politicians? Polls? Police Departments? Poles? Polarities?

      Reminds me of an article in a printed newspaper that had the word "coms" in there. Communications? Communists? Commitments? It was hard to figure out even with context.

    • I agree, I was going to say the same thing. It was written by a 16 year old, had to of been...

      • by Maow (620678)

        I agree, I was going to say the same thing. It was written by a 16 year old, had to of been...

        Through reading the "Firehose" (link titled "recent" at top left of page, where submissions are shown before being approved for the front page), I can say that the submitter, theodp, seems to make every post as inciteful (not insightful) as possible.

        PS, "had to of^H^H have been".

      • by cayenne8 (626475)

        I agree, I was going to say the same thing. It was written by a 16 year old, had to of been...

        Which is apparently the average mental age of most elligible voters in the US.

        Have you listened to actual 'man on the street' interviews lately? Geez...especially the young, 18yr old girls they often find...seriously scary that they can legally pull a voting lever....

    • Further, why is Harper Reed a hipster? I read To Kill a Mockingbird, and it hardly seems like a hipster book.
  • If much of what they have on me was accurate they wouldn't waste their money calling me and sending me junk mail.

    I wonder if they track who hangs up on their calls? I don't think they do: they keep calling me.

    • You're their prime target. Kinda like a Christian converting you.

      • > You're their prime target.

        Their prime target is the undecided voter. I'm definitely not that.

        > Kinda like a Christian converting you.

        The Christians I know believe in evangilizing by example. The occasional door-to-door missionary around here takes no for an answer.

  • All of this is wasted.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Sunday October 21, 2012 @09:32PM (#41725401)
    They are right and just in doing this. Information should be free. Where the catch is, is that we deserve to have the same level of detail on their private lives and internet activity. Sadly that's not the case. The problem isn't out lack of privacy, the problem is the disparity between "us" and "them" If they know everything, and we know nothing, that's a cast system.
  • The ultimate example of data mining affecting elections is surely caging? Mining the data to find a group likely to vote Democrat, then excluding them from the roll by cross referencing it with other databases, such as drivers ID.

    This is where the 'you need an ID of type X, Y or Z but not J,K,M' laws come from. The database tells them that they can exclude democrats or Ron Paul supporters by requiring the ID be of certain types.

    This is where the game of sending serving soldiers in Afghanistan who are black,

  • How politicians subvert and manipulate the people so to get elected and do something else, other than what they promised, based on the spying on the peoiple...

    This is not what the founders of this country intended when they formed this Republic (as opposed to a democracy)

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