Friday, December 14, 2012

Democrats Invasion of Privacy

After the 2012 election a lot has been made of the Get Out To Vote (GOTV) effort by Democrats and Republicans. Without question, the Democrats are winning this battle. So what is the difference between the two efforts? I do not completely understand the Democratic effort, but in my estimation, their effort is not legal because they do not abide by privacy laws. And this is what I believe gives them a huge advantage.

The Republicans big 40 million dollar technological effort was project ORCA. The concept was for poll watchers to electronically mark off people who voted on Election Day using their IPhone. This information would be directly reported back to Romney headquarters. One part of project ORCA was an algorithm that could determine the probability a voter was a Romney supporter or Obama supporter. This could be fairly easily accomplished since gender, ethnicity, age, party affiliation and other demographics are known about registered voters. From this, the Romney camp was essentially gathering the largest exit poll data in history. Project ORCA would tell the Romney camp where its volunteers should focus on the GOTV effort. People manning the phones would only focus on people who have yet to vote and who were predetermined (high probability) to vote for Romney.

Although ORCA sounded great on paper, it was flawed for many reasons. First, they did not beta test the product on a very large scale for fear it would fall into enemy hands. Secondly, this type of effort on Election Day would only make a difference in very close elections. Even if project ORCA worked as expected it would have never made up a difference of several million votes. Because project ORCA was not beta tested it crashed on Election Day and people had trouble getting into the system (the system would shut down if it felt it was being hacked). I worked as a member on project ORCA on Election Day and was able to register about 70% of the data from my precinct, but I had to call headquarters several times to get my password reset to get in the system. My biggest complaint was the software was a bit cumbersome and it was difficult to get data recorded in a fast manner. I was lucky to have two other people working our precinct or I would have never gotten any data recorded into the system.

The Obama camp high tech effort uses social media sources such as twitter and Facebook to obtain data and determine the probability a voter will break for the Democrats. The Obama camp can identify and reach out to millions of Democratic voters that “like” Obama or Democratic pages on Facebook or twitter. At best, this effort may be able to identify about 20 to 25% of their supporters. So how can Democrats and Obama obtain information on voters who are not part of their network? My guess is they are breaching the privacy of social media users to ascertain demographic information. For instance, today, I was searching the web for Velcro strap fasteners. When I got on Facebook later in the day there were ads on my page for Velcro strap fasteners. If Obama and Democrats have access to this type of information on every voter that are not even in their network, then that is a GOTV effort that is hard to beat. I may be wrong, but I am willing to bet Democratic GOTV efforts are invading the privacy of all social network users to obtain important information.

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