By 2006, having lost two consecutive presidential elections and having been the minority party for a decade, the Democrats caught up, creating first DataMart and then Data Warehouse.
By the 2008 election, all candidates for presidential office had developed and used databases, with the staff of Barack Obama having the greatest technological skill not only to use social media to get its message to the people, but also to be able to specifically target even the narrowest demographics with specific messages.
Legally, anyone can obtain voluminous data about anyone who has ever registered to vote, owned property, sued, been sued, arrested, served in the military, been married or divorced, licensed by any governmental agency, or attended a public school. The databases are what help reporters develop stories, some exposing corrupt governmental and business practices.
Almost every American consumer now has a Fair Isaac score. The scores are based upon dozens of reports about a person's credit history, and are available to Equifax, Experian, and Trans-Union, the three major credit reporting companies. FICO reports that 90 percent of the largest U.S. banks use the Fair Isaac scores. About three-fourth of credit reports contain errors, with about one-fourth of all credit reports containing significant errors that could result in denial of credit, according to the California Public Interest Research Group.
If you're using any social medium or search engine--Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Google, Pinterest, or anything that is composed not of carbon atoms but bits and bytes--you have been identified.
If my publisher wished to target audiences for my current book, Fracking Pennsylvania, she might first get a direct mail list of all environmentalists. Then a sub-set of environmentalists in Pennsylvania. Perhaps, she might also want a tighter list, so she asks for Pennsylvania environmentalists who have purchased at least five books in the past year. She could ask the direct marketing company to drill down even further and get those in select ZIP codes who have a certain income range and are members of certain societies. I suppose it's possible to target Pennsylvania environmentalists who live in the Marcellus Shale who bought at least five books last year, have a college degree and incomes above $45,000, and drive red convertibles on Sundays. A list of all Pennsylvanians might be a few cents a name; a highly targeted list could be $1 a name.
You've been warned.
[Dr. Brasch's current book, Fracking Pennsylvania, is available at http://www.greeleyandstone.com, amazon.com, or your local bookstore.]
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