Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Data Mining

As many Libertarian leaders check this site, I'd like to direct them to an excellent Washington Post article that highlights the interest of a Democratic Party faction in developing better data mining techniques.

Why are they interested? For the same reasons we should be. From the Post article:
The pressure on Democrats to begin more aggressive "data mining" in the hunt for votes began after the 2002 midterm elections and intensified after the 2004 presidential contest, when the GOP harnessed data technology to powerful effect.

In 2002, for the first time in recent memory, Republicans ran better get-out-the-vote programs than Democrats. When well done, such drives typically raise a candidate's Election Day performance by two to four percentage points. Democrats have become increasingly fearful that the GOP is capitalizing on high-speed computers and the growing volume of data available from government files and consumer marketing firms -- as well as the party's own surveys -- to better target potential supporters.

The Republican database has allowed the party and its candidates to
tailor messages to individual voters and households
, using information
about the kind of magazines they receive, whether they own guns, the churches they attend, their incomes, their charitable contributions and their voting histories.

This makes it possible to specifically address the issues of voters who, in the case of many GOP supporters, may oppose abortion, support gun rights or be angry about government use of eminent domain to take private property. A personalized pitch can be made during door-knocking, through direct mail and e-mail, and via phone banks.

(Emphasis is mine.)

This is an area where Libertarians could capitalize. The GOP is targeting eminent domain angered voters? Republican officials instigate as many eminent domain grabs as do Democrats. Mitch Daniels and NK Hurst, anyone? Republicans curtail 2nd Amendment rights as fast as Democrats. Etc.

I am pleased that the Libertarian Party of Indiana is taking this seriously, as shown in our recent County Chairs Convention. A 2% or 4% bump could make a huge difference for us county to county in the SoS race, where ballot ranking and other status issues are resolved.

I hope other LP state affiliates also get deeply involved with database development- especially those states that struggle to earn and keep ballot access


Michael said...

Data mining has a hidden bomb in it. You have to invade peoples privacy to gain the information. The majority of people whose information you get did not grant permission for it to be used for any purpose other than what it was originally intended, especially not to "profile" them. This is a very sticky situation for Libertarians and one that we might want to think seriously about. Yes, there is a gain to be had in vote numbers but at what cost? The numbers of people who consider this an invasion of their privacy is quite large, especially amongst Libertarians.
Using voter information, as we often do is one thing...the data gathered in "mining" may not be worth the costs.

CoffeeBigPlz said...

It is sticky.
But somebody needs to step up and regulate in a fair manner privacy.

Right now there is virtually NO privacy on the internet. It will not take a lot of time to get information on just about anyone.

An average (black hat)hacker can crack WEP in just under 20 minutes. The tools are easily available off the internet.

A lot of the problem is age old, the laws can not keep up with technology. Personaly I am not convinced that laws are the answer.

A comittee or forum with some good geeks and business backbone would probably go a long way.

Just my 2 cents. Your local Allen County Geek

CoffeeBigPlz said...

Just an FYI, I posted a data mining tutorial and then directed everyone here.

Mike Kole said...

Michael- There are all sorts of sources for data which can involve voluntary use.

For instance, the Libertarian Party keeps a database on its members. Libertarianism encompasses every area of life, but our members have varied interests. Some are interested in Federal issues, such as the war in Iraq, while others are fiscally motivated on taxes and budgets, while others still hold 1st Amendment, or 2nd Amendment, etc... as their top issues.

It makes sense to identify our interests so as to best coordinate efforts where people have similar interests. Candidates running on a tax cut platform would do best to reach out to those with a similar view first. Not to say that the candidate couldn't attract 2nd Amendment folks as supporter or volunteers, just an efficiency item.

Maybe "mining" has a more specific meaning. I am *not* in favor of doing things that work to bypass firewalls. However, if people voluntarily post to a Fair Tax site, I have no problem with contacting that person via info found there any more than I would in contacting someone who writes a letter to the editor of the paper.

Michael said...

Using the information gleaned from politcal party questionaires is one thing, it can reasonably be expected that you would be contacted in that case. What data mining refers to is not web based information gathering. It is database and mailing list purchasing, by and large, that's why the cost to do it is so high.
Buying peoples information from organizations gets us into a place where privacy issue start to arise. Most people do not grant permission to businesses, organizations or what have you to share their information with third and fourth parties. This is the problem and a major reason why many businesses have had to go out of their way to reassure their customers, often in writing that their info will not be shared. Even that is suspect, tho where the government is concerned. Store chains and their "customer cards" have already shared information on purchasing with the government in its data mining efforts. This is the "slippery slope" for us. Using data without the explicit permission of the individual.
Again, data supplied voluntarily, (such as what we may get from LP members) is fine. Wholesale purchasing or acquisition of info, which is what data mining is, is not necessarily something we want to be involved with if we have any respect for privacy rights.
If we contact an individual who may have posted at a place like the Fair Tax site and left an email or contact info that's OK. They have implied that they wish to be contacted.On the other hand, if we obtain the Fair Tax mailing list and start contacting those can see where there might be problems? It's an issue we must really look at before we leap into it.

Robert Enders said...

Some privacy issues are ethical matters, other privacy issues are matters of courtesy. If someone reads your mail without your consent, that is wrong. If someone photographs you in your front yard without your consent, that is bad manners but it isn't wrong. Different people have different ideas about what they consider to be private information. Some people consider it a violation of their privacy to look up their number and address in a phone book. They don't seem to realize that infomation in a phone book is public knowledge. Others seem to get upset when the "wrong" person reads their online profile, even though they voluntarily filled out that infomation for anyone with a modem to read. I find that it smoothes thing over when I ask people to voluntarily give their information rather than magically know about it in advance by Googling them.