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Data Miners Liken Obama Voters To Caesars Gamblers 166

Posted by timothy
from the you're-just-a-line-in-a-database dept.
theodp writes "As Steve Wozniak publicly laments how government used new technologies he introduced in unintended ways to monitor people, the NY Times reports how the digital masterminds behind the Obama Presidential campaign are cashing in by bringing the secret, technologically advanced formulas used for reaching voters to commercial advertisers. 'The plan is to bring the same Big Data expertise that guided the most expensive presidential campaign in history to companies and nonprofits,' explains Civis Analytics, which is backed by Google Chairman and Obama advisor Eric Schmidt. Also boasting senior members of Obama's campaign team is Analytics Media Group (A.M.G.), which pitched that 'keeping gamblers loyal to Caesars was not all that different from keeping onetime Obama voters from straying to Mitt Romney.' The extent to which the Obama campaign used the newest tech tools to look into people's lives was largely shrouded, the Times reports, but included data mining efforts that triggered Facebook's internal safeguard alarms. ... 'We asked to see [voter's Facebook] photos but really we were looking for who were tagged in photos with you, which was a really great way to dredge up old college friends — and ex-girlfriends.' The Times also explains how the Obama campaign was able to out-optimize the Romney campaign on TV buys by obtaining set-top box TV show viewing information from cable companies for voters on the Obama campaign's 'persuadable voters' list. "
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Data Miners Liken Obama Voters To Caesars Gamblers

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    People who vote for either of the two main parties are incredibly idiotic, so this isn't much of a surprise.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by davydagger (2566757)
      you think so, until you find out the massive operation put in place to keep them compliant, and how good it is meshing facts with fiction, and discrediting/sabatouging opposition.

      While its easy to laugh at people inside the bubble, be aware they have no easy way out as their political landscape has become a house a mirrors, set up by google.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        be aware they have no easy way out as their political landscape has become a house a mirrors, set up by google

        your tinfoil hat is tight enough to cut off the blood supply

        • by pecosdave (536896)

          Your rose colored glasses are only good for reading the charts on the old G.I. Joe action figure packages, you should take them off now.

      • While its easy to laugh at people inside the bubble, be aware they have no easy way out as their political landscape has become a house a mirrors, set up by google.

        Your post actually made sense up until that point. This has been going on far longer than Google has existed.

    • Re:Well, yeah. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cffrost (885375) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @08:59AM (#44078149) Homepage

      People who vote for either of the two main parties are incredibly idiotic, so this isn't much of a surprise.

      I agree, and I want to add that among those voters, the worst (in my opinion) are those who're able to abandon their own principles [washingtonexaminer.com] on a critical non-partisan issue based upon whether there's a Demoblican or a Republocrat in office. I can't wrap my head around it, but I find it appalling — they've got zero fucking integrity* and have no business in a voting booth.

      * Just like the D/R candidates.

      For those interested, here are the full results from Pew Research's domestic surveillance poll, showing additional demographic breakdowns. [people-press.org]

      • which will sound a bit familiar IOKWMSDI It's OK when my side does it.
      • by bondsbw (888959)

        This is one of the main reasons I want this country to abandon its two-party system.

        With three or more parties of nearly-equal size, you can't completely vote on party lines and expect a victory. You can't piss off everyone who isn't in your party and expect to get anywhere. Congress might have to, I don't know, think.

        • Re:Well, yeah. (Score:4, Informative)

          by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Saturday June 22, 2013 @12:06PM (#44079117) Homepage

          This is one of the main reasons I want this country to abandon its two-party system.

          Oh, not again. Every once in a while ignorant people complain about America's "two-party system" — failing to account for the vast differences between our political system and that of most of the Democracies of the world.

          You see, we do not have parties in the same sense as other countries. Voters here vote for individuals, whose party-affiliation is fluid and non-binding. Every once in a while an elected official may switch their party [wnd.com] — without any legal consequences. In other countries voters vote for a party, who then pick individual politicians to fill the slots the legislature. The number of slots is in proportion to the total number share of votes won by the party.

          Though some State-laws regulate the parties in the US, there is nothing about them in our Constitution or Federal Law. And for good reason — Americans vote for individuals, not parties. Whether that's "better" or "worse" is another topic, but it is different. There is no law regulating the establishing of a party, or how it is operated. Oh, and we have multiple parties: Communists of different kind (as usual for them), Libertarians, Green... That they aren't winning many offices is not the fault of the system...

          BTW, if you think, a multi-party system (however it is achieved) will automatically be better — think again [guardian.co.uk].

        • by ScentCone (795499)

          This is one of the main reasons I want this country to abandon its two-party system.

          The country doesn't have a two party system. It has individuals that choose to associated into groups (parties) to maximize their chance of getting things done in elections and legislative efforts.

          The parties we happen to see right now are always in a state of flux (really, there was political history before you were old enough to pay attention). People's participation in those parties ebb and flow, and the priorities focused on by the parties changes with all sorts of variables.

          If you were to decide

          • by dryeo (100693)

            I think you're reading too much into the parents wishes. He never said anything about forcing the end of the 2 party system, just wishing. I wish lots of things that aren't practical as they'd infringe on peoples rights, but it would be nice if people voluntarily changed in some ways.
            Besides, there are constitutional things that can be done to encourage more parties, splitting up the elections would go a long ways. If a State elects its legislature at a different time as the Federals do it, State issues wou

          • by Magius_AR (198796)

            The country doesn't have a two party system. It has individuals that choose to associated into groups (parties) to maximize their chance of getting things done in elections and legislative efforts.

            Hrm, I wonder how many of these "parties" in our "system" are electable.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Democrats are more likely (according to that study) to go with their party than Republicans... BUT... that's not even the best part...

        This effect is under-reported by the paper's (false) pretense that the spying by the two administrations was the same. During the Bush years, Democrats were rabid over the typically mis-named (by politicians) "Patriot Act" which enable warrantless wiretaps and such on Americans if they were on one end of a conversation and the party on the other end was a terror suspect outs

      • I agree, and I want to add that among those voters, the worst (in my opinion) are those who're able to abandon their own principles [washingtonexaminer.com] on a critical non-partisan issue

        A good portion of those probably don't consider it a critical issue at all, that's why they're willing to flip.

        Don't think that because an issue is important to you, it is important to everyone.

  • by m00sh (2538182) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @07:47AM (#44077871)

    When Netflix furor broke out about being able to identify a person by the ratings they gave, it turns out that it was only possible when a person had rated an obscure movie (and had cross rated the same movie over different websites).

    When Target furor broke out out predicting pregnancy, it was based largely on if you bought a certain type of cream.

    I know data mining and such is an attractive but most times it just boils down to some obscure identifier over all the data. Optimizing this and balancing hundreds of factors, does that even work?

    • Yes, it does (Score:5, Insightful)

      by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@@@keirstead...org> on Saturday June 22, 2013 @08:01AM (#44077927) Homepage

      The real reason people are scared of big data is because the more and more we study it, the more and more it is proven that most people are very, very predictable. It's gotten to the point that companies optimize the color placement of objects in the background of their advertising to appeal to people they are targetting.

      The thing that amazes me however is how some companies can still get things so outstandingly wrong/backwards in this day and age. Take the recent Microsoft Xbox One fiasco. I find it hard to believe that a company like Microsoft would not have known this reaction was coming. Any trivial study of online sentiment data would have shown this in advance.

      • by m00sh (2538182)

        The real reason people are scared of big data is because the more and more we study it, the more and more it is proven that most people are very, very predictable. It's gotten to the point that companies optimize the color placement of objects in the background of their advertising to appeal to people they are targetting.

        People are very predictable until they are not.

        Taking the example of movies, some movies become huge hits even when they aren't that good. For example, Hangover. Now, Hangover 2 and 3 are

        • Re:Yes, it does (Score:4, Insightful)

          by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@@@keirstead...org> on Saturday June 22, 2013 @08:33AM (#44078041) Homepage

          Big data is not about using 1 thing as a predictor. It is about using the analysis of 10,000,000 different things about groups of people analyzed as an aggregate as a predictor. And it is right a lot more often than it is not, when applied properly.

          • Agree, data mining is about finding relationships you didn't know existed but the Obama campaign is not a great example of that. I have .au at the end of my email address because...well...I live in Oz. Somehow Obama's super computer got hold of my address, miss-identified me as an American voter and started trying to sell me tickets to their convention, at first they were signed by various mayors and governors, then Michell. and finally Barrack in a last ditch attempt to extract $5 from me. Not spotting the
            • by jfengel (409917)

              Possibly, but two things come to mind.

              1. A .au address doesn't mean you're not in the US. CCTLDs are used for all sorts of reasons; bit.ly isn't libyan and gool.gl isn't in Greenland. Or maybe you're hanging on to an old email address for personal reasons. Filtering that out could have cost them donations, especially in light of:

              2. Spam is cheap. It costs them essentially nothing to send you that email. If you wanted out, you'd have opted out.

              If you had offered them money they'd actually have had to turn yo

              • by nojayuk (567177)

                I'm not American but I know a few American citizens who are living and working in my native country. They are eligible to vote in US elections even though they have email and home addresses which don't fit into a standard US-centric template.

                The Obama campaign made a point of getting in touch with and trying to persuade US citizens abroad to vote. They also hit them up for donations which expatriates are legally permitted to make even if they don't live in the US currently.

      • by retchdog (1319261)

        that's what's funny about it. culture has become more diverse, not less. the machine is scrambling to keep up and maintain what was fucking trivial in the 1950s. it will mostly succeed, but taken over all, uniformity and predictability is no worse than it ever was, and quite likely has improved.

        • "culture has become more diverse, not less"

          I have to disagree. Culture is increasingly being homogenized. I mean, the differences in lifestyle between say a person in China or Russia and a person in the US, while still great, is less today than in the past. Why? Probably because even with country-wide "firewalls" enough foreign "culture" filters through from one country to another. Even if you're living in some Middle Eastern theocracy, porn is just a click or tap away, although, of course, you may need to

          • by PRMan (959735)
            There was a graduating class of the 1920s at my university (which was very small then) and all the women had EXACTLY the same haircut, whether it looked good on them or not. You could find the same thing up through the 1950s. Even growing up in the 1970s, everybody pretty much wore the same things but in the 80s it changed into the "groups" that you see in the movies: jocks, nerds, gangs, artists, emos, etc. Since then, it has only become more diverse.
          • I was going to say that it's become more diverse on a superficial level and go on about quinoia and shit, but I think one example [slashdot.org] is worth a hundred words of theoretical spouting.

            • by retchdog (1319261)

              sounds like garden-variety cynicism to me. do you consider religion, sexual orientation, and racial equality to be on the "superficial level"?

              maybe music and art are "superficial" on slashdot, but they aren't to most of the population.

              but, sure, yeah, let's focus on haircuts and quinoa. that's a great point you have there.

          • by retchdog (1319261)

            sure, okay, probably. there are anecdotes both ways, but yeah, forcibly exporting american culture through financial war is one of our primary weapons, so sure.

            i was, however, referring to american culture specifically (see, the article was about Obama and US elections...), so your points are irrelevant.

      • by bondsbw (888959)

        No, and it can completely turn off people.

        My wife and I have been struggling with infertility for a few years. Target's nice little data mining algorithm evidently thinks we are getting pregnant, all the time. We aren't, and Target is a constant reminder of the fact (and typically at just the wrong time, like when we get a negative test).

        • by bondsbw (888959)

          Sorry, meant for this to be a reply to the GP.

      • Re:Yes, it does (Score:4, Insightful)

        by thomst (1640045) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @10:46AM (#44078671) Homepage

        brunes69 opined:

        Take the recent Microsoft Xbox One fiasco. I find it hard to believe that a company like Microsoft would not have known this reaction was coming. Any trivial study of online sentiment data would have shown this in advance.

        If you find that hard to believe, then you know very little about Microsoft's management.

        Did you not notice the Vista fiasco of a few years back (not to mention the Windows 8 disaster, now playing at a computer store near you)?

        Things were better (believe it or not) when billg was in charge. At least back then, the geeks actually had some voice in product decisions. Ever since that nincompoop Ballmer took over, it's been MBAs, all the way down.

        MBAs don't listen to ANYONE - except other MBAs. Even then, they only pay attention if those MBAs outrank them. MBAs are specifically conditioned to focus exclusively on improving margins, cutting costs, and pumping up the stock price. Quality is not an issue that even registers with them. Customers are wallets with legs. Customer input is to be solicited only when unavoidable, and only on non-business-related issues: How do you feel about THIS commercial? Do you like the purple-on-green packaging, or the green-on-purple packaging better? Do you prefer the logo HERE, or over there?

        Ballmer is a fool, who has surrounded himself with fools - all of whom have MBAs. But I repeat myself.

        All of which is to say that the XBox One policies that caused such immense, and immediate backlash were ENTIRELY believable products of the Microsoft management environment. "MBAs are people who know the price of everything - and the value of NOTHING," (with apologies to Oscar Wilde).

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        How was it proven? Big data makes big claims, but there aren't any studies showing that their predictions are actually true. By default, you shouldn't believe anything a business says about their own product.

    • by khallow (566160)

      I know data mining and such is an attractive but most times it just boils down to some obscure identifier over all the data.

      The more data you have the more obscure identifiers you have. But there has to be declining returns to this.

      Even with perfect knowledge of your customers, you still can only get them to buy so much (after all, they get only so much money). And I think the customer base gets resistant to marketing techniques as well (especially given how unsubtle those techniques tend to be).

  • You get the "leaders" you deserve.

    • by garyoa1 (2067072)

      Listening and doing are two different things. Seems anything anyone proposes in congress anymore turns into a Mexican stand-off. And no one deserves that.

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @08:11AM (#44077957)
    Somehow we talk about campaign donations being the be all and end all, but we are obviously missing something:

    pro-bono work done by media and technology experts that other canidates would have to pay for. This by-passes all donation contributions. In an ideal system you wouldn't need campaign finance reform, because people would make informed decisions, and no amount of money spent could change that. Thats not true. Money can buy votes. We all know this, but HOW is rarely discussed, because the people taking the money are the same people reporting the donations.

    They buy you, by buying the "favorite celebrities" they already sold you previously. They overhype their strengths, and they downplay the really creepy and criminal things they do. They then go out of their way to let you know what bad guys the people who don't like celebrities are, and how you'll be social outcast if you give up on your favorite celebrities.

    In the new digital age, there is also facebook. Once they know everything about you, it makes it easier to push your buttons. What if they find some dark sexual secret? Find out your weaknesses, exploit them. Since they already know who your friends are, they can tell them, or let them know subtly.

    They can manipulate the girl you always had a crush on into sleeping with you, or dating you, because now they know. They can do all kinds of things to her as well.(mabey she spies on you?).

    Since they know all your personal informaiton they can pretend to be an old long lost friend and use their credibility to bombard you with propaganda.

    Speaking of propaganda, they can easily bypass your intellectual guards by finding out what pushes your buttongs and tailoring propaganda specificly to you.

    All this is done pro-bono. This is what we know their capabilities are because they BRAG about them. Now it gets better, what if they want information about the opposition? What if they want to target organizers, donors, and leading voices opposing canidate XZY? What if they used the information to conduct smears of the opposition?

    What if they targeted and harrassed campaign organizers and leaders. with information like this they'd be able to do with almost without being known about.

    They aren't going to tell you that. Its not beyond their capabilities. Your a fool to think they never considered it.
  • Fantastic Analogy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @08:23AM (#44078011)

    Sometimes people just don't realize the full implications of their own analogies...

    Ceasar's Palace exists for one reason and one reason only - to extract as much of money out of their customers^h^h^h^h^h^h suckers as possible. They (and all of the other modern casino/resorts) pioneered "Big Data" techniques to figure out just how much they could squeeze out of every person that comes into contact with them. They've got official policies on paper to deny it. but they are happy to manipulate and exploit addiction [telegraph.co.uk] to get all of the money.

    • to extract as much of money out of their customers^h^h^h^h^h^h suckers as possible.

      The people who voted Obama in for a second term were most definitely suckers so it stands to reason that Ceasars would want a cut of their action because the fools and their money are soon parted as the saying goes. Between ObamaCare and Ceasars these people won't have two nickles left to rub together, perhaps then they'll ask themselves what happened to that hope and change./p>

  • The Obama concern was never that 2008 Obama voters would "stray" to Romney. The Republicans moved so far to the right that even Romney was having trouble following his base (and that was one reason he lost: he showed clearly that he would follow the conservative base, not lead the country).

    The Obama concern was that 2008 Obama voters *wouldn't show up at the polls*. Turnout was key. If those that disliked Obama (but disliked Romney more) just decided to stay home, he would have lost. In fact, in some re

  • Gamblers were loyal to Caesar? I must have missed that part in my sttidies of ancient Rome.

    (Or is this about a later Roman Emperor rather than Julius, Augustus or Tiberius...

    BTW I remember John Hurt's acting as Caligula in the British miniseries I Claudius - I am sure he will make an excellent Doctor.

  • by pesho (843750) on Saturday June 22, 2013 @10:37AM (#44078617)
    The Obama campaign treated voters as consumers, because the vast majority of voters treat democracy as a supermarket. Instead of being informed, listen to each other, actively voice their position in petitions and protests, and generally be involved in governance, modern voters just switch to the other brand of soap. To carry on with the metaphor, some of them abandon soap altogether and choose not to shower. This "exit" strategy has reached particularity absurd level in the United States where a number of voters (the so called "independents") bounce as ping-pong balls between the two parties every four years. These voters are never satisfied with the government they just elected, yet they cannot be bothered to actively push this government to fulfill promises or address their grievances. So, if you approach democracy as market, the politicians will treat you as shoppers. You got what you asked for, why are you complaining? (Disclosure: These are not my ideas, I stole them from a book called "In Mistrust We Trust: Can Democracy Survive When We Don't Trust Our Leaders?" [amazon.com].)
    • Mod parent up; we get the the government we deserve, as the saying goes. I mean, come on already, do people actually believe a single word uttered by anyone in DC politics associated w/either the R or D parties? Time and time again these sad excuses for human beings (referring to the federal government) have proven themselves to be outright filthy liars to just plain criminals.

      Listen up folks: this type of despicable, criminal behavior is a prerequisite to be a part of either the D or R teams; why can't
    • If people get the government that they deserve in a democracy then I'd say that we've gotten exactly what we deserve in Obama which is to say not much.

    • The Obama campaign treated voters as consumers, because the vast majority of voters treat democracy as a supermarket.

      No shit. Some dude called Vance Packard knew this in 1957.

  • by overmod (180722) on Sunday June 23, 2013 @01:08PM (#44086309)

    I recognized back in the early days of the Obama administration that there was a key quid pro quo for bailing out the large banking firms that were caught in the real-estate crisis trap of their own making.

    Each one of those firms had its own synthetic model of the economy, probably researched in fine detail and hyperlinked in clever ways. I thought that part of the 'price' for a Government bailout would be the sharing of the code, architectural details, etc. of these various programs, which could then be set up somewhere like Bay St. Louis to be run for the advantage of... well, ultimately, the American taxpayer.

    I suspect we are now seeing the results of exactly why that technology wasn't demanded.. publically, at least... and perhaps how we can expect to see it used in future...

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