A few years back we heard a decent amount about "Carnivore", an FBI terrorist search program that scanned vast amounts of data -- emails, texts, voice, etc looking for terrorist connects. The Party (TP-Democrat) hated it, W was president back then and it is always "chilling" if there are any "privacy issues" with an opposition president in the WH.
Small matter that 90%+ of those building and operating Carnivore were dues paying union TP members.
Well, there is a semi-private version of "Carnivore" now called "CATALIST" that is a "Big Data" program -- claimed to be fully legal, and may well be, that is wiring elections for TP. The linked article is pretty fair on the subject, I'll try to be really brief on the synapsis of the threat. A lot of formerly thought to be brilliant pollsters and pundits were blind sided by BO in '12 ... the numbers looked like Romney ought to win. The analysis is that CATALIST is the big reason he didn't and it may be a big reason why this election is another "surprise".
The big picture here is that we can understand the import here since the left already went bonkers on this as far back as Reagan in the form of the "Religious Right" was getting out votes for Reagan -- never mind that Unions, The Sierra Club, Black Churches, Universities, etc had been doing this for Democrats for eons. Word of mouth and peers is the BEST way to get your voters active and out -- negative advertising is like junk mail. It moves the needle a few percentage points AT BEST, and it costs a lot -- it is a shotgun approach, little targeting.
But programs like CATLIST that know if you shop at Whole Foods, have a family member with a mental illness, don't attend church, own a Prius, etc are able to target you in a way that was never possible without what the computer industry calls "Big Data" -- at a very simple level, Google and Relational Data Base (RDB) mated and their offspring is Big Data / CATALIST.
The ability to gather vast amounts of data on people, identify their "hot buttons", and LINK THEM to like minded political workers is HUGE. "God, Guns, Gays" was the old cry from the left as to how evil Republicans got elected. On the left it might be "Environmentalism, Atheism, Veganism, Pro "gay marriage", anti-gun ...". But the funer the appeal, and who it is that makes the appeal, the more powerful it is.
There are reasons that this is an asymmetric battle space with a huge advantage going to TP, I'll touch on a few here.
- TP owns the universities and government. The brainpower to create and operate this kind of operation is pretty much in their camp.
- The agencies that hold the data are government and government IS TP. We likely see a tiny fraction of the situation with little hints like the IRS scandal. Your IRS financial data, your FBI data, your medical data -- they are all sitting in big government data bases. At the VERY LEAST, this can be "mined" (scanned for trends, correlations, etc without direct use of your ID) -- in the very likely case, items can be "leaked" across data bases with no record of "how we got that" WITH Idenity. We are only talking about "helping the voter connect with TP" after all -- a very good purpose if you are TP.
- Conservatives may well have an easier time building a big data operation to track terrorists or make a profit. Like ALL technology, there is a lot that can be done here that is "good" or at least innocuous, but when used by the government, conservatives tend to get nervous. Their level of trust of the government is FAR lower -- and in fact their trust of large organizations of people is FAR lower. It likely stems from remembering things like the USSR and Nazi Germany were government operations, and the core belief that mankind is fallen and not infinitely perfectible in this world.
Domination of their true enemy -- conservative opposition in this country, is what TP does best. They may be unwilling and ridiculous when it comes to foreign enemies (like telling them what we WON'T do, eg "boots on ground") but against what they see as domestic enemies, rest assured they are positively ruthless.
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