Thursday :: Jun 22, 2006

Open Thread - Alternate Theory Edition

by Steve

I'm sure you have heard that the GOP is light years ahead of the Democrats in their use of computers and high-tech targeting systems to identify their voters and how to get them out to the polls every election. The Democrats traditionally target their voters by demographics and assumed policy preferences, and aim low-tech means to reach those voters. On the other hand, the GOP has been building large databases on their voters, their likes, their purchasing practices, what they like to eat, what they watch on TV, what sports and magazines they like, and what clubs they belong to, all in an effort to identify levers to prod them to go vote. They also use this information to identify who isn't likely to be their voters, in order to learn how to depress that vote. But to maximize this effort you need access to all the data you can get without the barriers of privacy laws.

Prior to 2001, there could be no large scale data mining operation to populate such data bases without running afoul of privacy laws or government regulators. Sure, the GOP was working on this and gathering what data they could from friendly sources, but that was a drop in the bucket compared to what they would need to really be effective at this. You could not get phone companies to agree to turn over their data bases to the GOP just so they could target voters. Likewise, no cell phone, internet provider, or credit card company would just give this information to the GOP or its contractors like Choice Point even if the GOP paid for it, because of the privacy laws and government regulators.

But throw in a different Justice Department, a different group of government regulators, and a “please protect me” environment after 9/11 where the public was now willing to forego some civil liberties and personal protections and privacy laws, and suddenly you had a bonanza of available information in front of you, all for the taking under the cover of looking for and fighting terrorists.

The LA Times' Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger have a book coming out in two weeks, "One Party Country", that in part deals with this huge advantage that the GOP has in getting voters out to the polls. I am eagerly looking forward to that book.

What if one of the real purposes of this data grab is to build the massive data bases the GOP plans to use for the next several decades on how to get their voters to the polls and suppress the Democratic vote, done under the false cover of an anti-terror program to get around privacy issues?

OK, it's your turn now.

Steve :: 12:00 AM :: Comments (20) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!