Now, thank goodness, all is temporarily calm and bright in my own little corner of cyberspace. Blissfully gone are those days when I couldn't visit a web-page without the grinning face of Barack or the grimacing face of Mitt haunting my every click. Email spam folders are also blessedly bereft of those uncannily personal and overly-familiar missives from Michelle and Ann, Bo and Tagg, Cutter and Ax.
Now that the Spambot in-Chief of the Obama campaign is apparently out of a job, (or so he implies) he has written an op-ed for The New York Times to bitch about all the bad press his spy outfit has gotten. "I Am Not Big Brother!" shrills Ethan Roeder, who makes sure that we know that his job description is former data director for Obama for America. He comes not to spy upon you but to deny the spying ever happened in the first place -- even though he can't help admitting that yes, he spied. But it was for your own good. He is here to
Reading what others muse about my profession is the opposite of my middle-school experience: people with only superficial information about me make a bunch of assumptions to fill in what’s missing and decide that I’m an all-knowing super-genius. (wahhhh.)
Sadly for me, this is a bunch of malarkey. You may chafe at how much the online world knows about you, but campaigns don’t know anything more about your online behavior than any retailer, news outlet or savvy blogger.He doesn't know anything about you that corporate sleazeballs like Macy's or Amazon don't know, so that makes you fair game for political operatives, too. Ethan's middle school memories unfortunately do not include the time his mother chided him about the evils of going along with the crowd: "If everybody else in your class jumped off a cliff, Ethan, would you do it too?"
Also, I was unaware that "savvy bloggers" were in the habit of hacking into people's private information. And here I thought only Anonymous and the FBI were doing it. Where do I sign up?
And anyway, cyberspying is all so harmless and mundane and kind of boring, as Ethan reassuringly purrs:
The explicit data includes e-mails and comments that users share directly. The implicit data comes from “click tracking,” which tells a campaign what buttons are getting pressed and how often. Combined, these two categories of data allow a campaign to put together an online experience that will resonate with as many people as possible, but also to customize the experience so that you are more likely to encounter content that’s relevant to you.
At times it might seem like sorcery to the recipient of a targeted e-mail, but it’s just a product of two simple factors: remembering who you are and remembering what you like.I know who you are and I saw what you did. Big Brother follows you for your own good, to find out what you like. He wants to manufacture an online experience for you, whether you want one or not. It may seem like magic, but it's nothing more than technology run amok. As long as we are transparent about our methodology, says Ethan, you should just accept the loss of privacy. It's the new normal. Stop being such whiney purist civil libertarians. The Constitution is so yesterday.
The data the Obama people have gleaned on the lives of citizens is vaster than we ever could have imagined. Ethan soothingly reveals that
In 2011 and 2012, the Obama campaign, with the help of more than two million volunteers, had more than 24 million conversations with voters. Online tools gave Obama supporters resources to help them play a crucial role in their neighborhoods, and a series of “share your story” pages on the campaign Web site provided a venue for voters to communicate directly with the campaign in long form.
New technologies and an abundance of data may rattle the senses, but they are also bringing a fresh appreciation of the value of the individual to American politics.What Ethan does not reveal in his op-ed is that his database is something of a pearl without price, but it may soon be for sale anyway at a very hefty price to the highest political or corporate bidder (s). The Democrats as well as their veal pen offshoots are not being shy about asking for it:
From the candidates running in 2014 to the state Democratic parties to progressive advocacy groups, there is an intense behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign afoot to pry from Obamaland its groundbreaking voter database. The data is rich with intricate layers of information about individuals’ voting habits, television viewing tastes, propensity to volunteer, car registration, passions, email address, cellphone numbers, and social media contacts. The historical trove enabled Obama to connect with voters on a highly personal level and get them not only to vote but to actively persuade their neighbors to do the same.
Those decisions likely won’t be made until closer to the president’s inauguration next month. Among the prime options being discussed by president’s political hands: setting up an independent, not-for-profit entity, run by Obama aides, to manage and keep the electronic files updated so the contacts could be used to further the president’s agenda. Handing over the names to campaigns is not high on the list right now.That's a relief. Now, when it comes time to slash "entitlements" (a/k/a paid-up retirement and old-age medical insurance policies as well as programs for our most vulnerable citizens) The President will morph into CyberSvengali and we will be mass-hypnotized into participating in our own destruction. Once that is accomplished, he may or may not bequeath his Master List to the next Masters and Mistresses waiting in the wings. Has he ever stopped to think that people forced to share the sacrifice with the plutocracy may no longer be able to even afford a computer or an internet connection, and the whole master list may be for naught?
Despite what Winston Smith thought to himself at the very end, Big Brother most assuredly does not love you.