Big Brother Obama is watching

Ed Lasky
Big Brother Obama is watching you on-line despite his claims to want to protect your privacy. 

Dave Levinthal of Politico reports on Team Obama's vast efforts to tap people's on-line behavior to gin up votes and money for his campaign :

President Barack Obama wants companies like Google and Facebook to reform their privacy practices.

But that's not stopping his reelection campaign from tapping the rich data Internet companies hold on millions of potential voters.

Obama for America has already invested millions of dollars in sophisticated Internet messaging, marketing and fundraising efforts that rely on personal data sometimes offered up voluntarily - like posts on a Facebook page- but sometimes not.

And according to a campaign official and former Obama staffer, the campaign's Chicago-based headquarters has built a centralized digital database of information about millions of potential Obama voters.

It all means Obama is finding it easier than ever to merge offline data, such as voter files and information purchased from data brokers, with online information to target people with messages that may appeal to their personal tastes. Privacy advocates say it's just the sort of digital snooping that his new privacy project is supposed to discourage...

There's an added twist for Obama: He's making these moves at the same moment his administration is pushing the virtues of online privacy, last month proposing a consumer bill of rights to protect it.

As much as President Obama may think he belongs on Mt. Rushmore, there would be no room for him up there -- not just because he has a big head but also because he has two faces.

One face says what many people want to hear. His other face does the exact opposite in order to benefit Barack Obama.

He wants to capture the young and libertarian-minded people by loudly broadcasting his desire to protect their privacy on-line, while he commands his campaign to spend millions of dollars to snoop on them for campaign purposes.

Some people see that the H initial in BHO could just as readily stand for Hypocrisy.

For some privacy advocates, the data disconnect between Obama's administration and campaign is tantamount to hypocrisy.

And it comes as lawmakers, regulators, companies and privacy advocates are arguing over the very meaning of online tracking and what kinds of personal information should at least be legal, if not easy, to gather.

"The Obama campaign has to confront the contradiction that the president talks about 'timeless privacy values,' and then, his campaign using contemporary digital tools to operate a stunning commercial surveillance system," says Jeff Chester, executive director for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Digital Democracy. "The idea that the Obama campaign can create a political dossier on you that they can act upon without asking permission first is outrageous."

The campaign is carefully tailoring messages to its targets so that they reflect the concerns and interests of those receiving the campaign pitch. Of course, this also makes it harder for monitoring groups to judge the honesty and accuracy of those messages as easily as they might be able to do in a public ad or television commercial. This is particularly relevant because the Obama campaign has been very adept at sending "dog-whistle" campaign pitches to certain categories of people. These are referred to as "dog-whistle" messages because they escape detection and thus monitoring by watchdog groups measuring how honest campaigns are being run. Last year, for example, Obama used Spanish-speaking media to lambast Republicans as being anti-Hispanic and called on Hispanics to "punish your enemies". It is important to note that Chris Hughes (who recently purchased liberal magazine The New Republic) has been working for the Obama campaign since 2008. He is one of the co-founders of Facebook. That site is a prime target for the Obama campaign to use to gather votes. The Obama team had their "Truth Squads" and requests to provide emails and names to them of people who were not Obama supporters. What's next-knocks at the door. Except of course, they have done that in 2008 and will be doing it again this year.

To add one more level of hypocrisy to Obama's snooping, he has been trumpeting his concern for on-line privacy and introduced a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights that he intends to use as the foundation for future legislation. However, if it is enacted, there is a loophole: it would not apply to political campaigns.

The level of this man's cynicism is stunning.

Thomas Lifson adds: This is just another instance of Obama believing that the rules don't apply to him.

Big Brother Obama is watching you on-line despite his claims to want to protect your privacy. 

Dave Levinthal of Politico reports on Team Obama's vast efforts to tap people's on-line behavior to gin up votes and money for his campaign :

President Barack Obama wants companies like Google and Facebook to reform their privacy practices.

But that's not stopping his reelection campaign from tapping the rich data Internet companies hold on millions of potential voters.

Obama for America has already invested millions of dollars in sophisticated Internet messaging, marketing and fundraising efforts that rely on personal data sometimes offered up voluntarily - like posts on a Facebook page- but sometimes not.

And according to a campaign official and former Obama staffer, the campaign's Chicago-based headquarters has built a centralized digital database of information about millions of potential Obama voters.

It all means Obama is finding it easier than ever to merge offline data, such as voter files and information purchased from data brokers, with online information to target people with messages that may appeal to their personal tastes. Privacy advocates say it's just the sort of digital snooping that his new privacy project is supposed to discourage...

There's an added twist for Obama: He's making these moves at the same moment his administration is pushing the virtues of online privacy, last month proposing a consumer bill of rights to protect it.

As much as President Obama may think he belongs on Mt. Rushmore, there would be no room for him up there -- not just because he has a big head but also because he has two faces.

One face says what many people want to hear. His other face does the exact opposite in order to benefit Barack Obama.

He wants to capture the young and libertarian-minded people by loudly broadcasting his desire to protect their privacy on-line, while he commands his campaign to spend millions of dollars to snoop on them for campaign purposes.

Some people see that the H initial in BHO could just as readily stand for Hypocrisy.

For some privacy advocates, the data disconnect between Obama's administration and campaign is tantamount to hypocrisy.

And it comes as lawmakers, regulators, companies and privacy advocates are arguing over the very meaning of online tracking and what kinds of personal information should at least be legal, if not easy, to gather.

"The Obama campaign has to confront the contradiction that the president talks about 'timeless privacy values,' and then, his campaign using contemporary digital tools to operate a stunning commercial surveillance system," says Jeff Chester, executive director for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Digital Democracy. "The idea that the Obama campaign can create a political dossier on you that they can act upon without asking permission first is outrageous."

The campaign is carefully tailoring messages to its targets so that they reflect the concerns and interests of those receiving the campaign pitch. Of course, this also makes it harder for monitoring groups to judge the honesty and accuracy of those messages as easily as they might be able to do in a public ad or television commercial. This is particularly relevant because the Obama campaign has been very adept at sending "dog-whistle" campaign pitches to certain categories of people. These are referred to as "dog-whistle" messages because they escape detection and thus monitoring by watchdog groups measuring how honest campaigns are being run. Last year, for example, Obama used Spanish-speaking media to lambast Republicans as being anti-Hispanic and called on Hispanics to "punish your enemies". It is important to note that Chris Hughes (who recently purchased liberal magazine The New Republic) has been working for the Obama campaign since 2008. He is one of the co-founders of Facebook. That site is a prime target for the Obama campaign to use to gather votes. The Obama team had their "Truth Squads" and requests to provide emails and names to them of people who were not Obama supporters. What's next-knocks at the door. Except of course, they have done that in 2008 and will be doing it again this year.

To add one more level of hypocrisy to Obama's snooping, he has been trumpeting his concern for on-line privacy and introduced a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights that he intends to use as the foundation for future legislation. However, if it is enacted, there is a loophole: it would not apply to political campaigns.

The level of this man's cynicism is stunning.

Thomas Lifson adds: This is just another instance of Obama believing that the rules don't apply to him.