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Not Just the NSA: Politicians Are Data Mining the American Electorate

By       Message John Nichols       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Source: The Nation

As long as we're opening a discussion about data mining, might we consider the fact that it's not just the government that's paying attention to our digital entanglements?

There's a reason why the National Security Agency was interested in accessing the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. When you're mining, you go where the precious resources are, and technology companies have got the gold.

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Data is digital gold. Corporations know that. They're big into data mining.

But it's not just profits that data can yield.

Data is also mined by those who seek power.

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Political candidates, political parties, Super PACS and dark-money groups are among the most ambitious data miners around. They use data to supercharge their fund-raising, to target multi-million dollar ad buys and to stir passions and fears at election time.

Data drives the money-and-media election complex that is rapidly turning American democracy into an American Dollarocracy, where election campaigns are long on technical savvy but short, very short, on vision.

Here's a short excerpt from our new book, Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America (Nation Books), which is published today. It focuses on data mining by political campaigns:

If there was one assessment of the 2012 campaign that the campaign consultants loved above all others, it was the analysis that said, "Thar's gold in them thar iPhones." After two decades of trying to figure out how to monetize bits and bytes, the consulting class is now all in for the digitalization of our politics. Indeed, the final election-season issue of Campaigns & Elections ("the magazine for people in politics") featured "10 Bold Ideas for the Future of Consulting." This was the money-and-media election complex talking to itself, and there was no mistaking the message. Yes, of course, there were the calls for more spending: "Money in Politics: Time to Embrace It." And complaints about even the most minimal restraints on campaign donations: "Give Candidates the Ability to Fight Back: With Contribution Limits Intact, What's a Candidate to Do?"

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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