On a YouTube Politics panel I was on, I was asked by the moderator, Google Account Executive Robert Saliterman, if I had any advice for President Obama's ad campaign. I did and it turned out to be a little controversial. I do admit that I was trying to add a little pizazz towards the end of the panel, but I really do believe my arguments are sound.
Basically, I think that the President of the United States should not be running a site called "Attack Watch" where someone can go to report an attack, track "false" reports and facts, and read all sorts of Obama propaganda. It was wrong when President Nixon had a list and it is wrong when President Obama makes a list (unless you are one of the media agencies, then it can be helpful 'Natch).
When challenged by my panelists during the panel and afterwards, I do believe that the President should not be running a site like this, especially with the data collection capabilities available in 2012. Basically if you report someone or sign up for emails, President Obama can do the following with your data - personally identifiable and non PII data linked together.
- WHAT INFORMATION DO WE COLLECT: Such information may include personal information, such as your name, mailing address, email address, phone number, and credit card information. Personal and demographic information may also be collected if you provide such information in connection with creating a profile or group, leaving comments, posting blog comments or other content, sending an email or message to another user, or participating in any interactive forums or features on the Sites. In addition, from time to time we may collect demographic, contact or other personal information you provide in connection with your participation in surveys, contests, games, promotions, and other activities on the Sites.
- In addition, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) may require us to collect personal information from donors. For example, the FEC requires us to collect (and disclose) the name, mailing address, occupation, and employer of all individuals whose donations exceed $200 per calendar year.
- Passive Collection: When you use the Sites, some information is also automatically collected, such as your Internet Protocol (IP) address, your operating system, the browser type, the address of a referring web site, and your activity on our Sites. We treat this information as personal information if we combine it with or link it to any of the identifying information mentioned above.
- In some cases, third party vendors may collect personal information from you, such as your name and email address, on other web sites and provide this information to us, or OFA may collect personal information that you enter directly within an advertising unit.
- We may share personal information as follows: with vendors, consultants, and other service providers or volunteers who are engaged by or working with us and who need access to such information to carry out their work for us; with candidates, organizations, groups or causes that we believe have similar political viewpoints, principles or objectives;
Basically, what does this mean? Simple. President Obama can:
- collect your web surfing behaviors on and off their sites
- combine it with personal information like credit card, employment, phone number
- use the combined data for anything it wants
- and then provide that information to anyone it wants - that information can include the information you reported on a friend or neighbor
I think it is one thing for a candidate to collect this type of marketing information. However, it is not appropriate when your Government does.