Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Barack's List

So we've got Craigslist, Angie's List, EMILY's list, and now Barack's list. This article really tweaks me the wrong way, and is symbolic of what is wrong with politics.
Barack Obama's supporters are giving him more than just record amounts of cash. They also are providing personal information that may make his donor list the most powerful tool in U.S. politics.

Even if the Democratic presidential candidate doesn't succeed in his White House bid, this data will make Obama a power broker in the party for years to come. For the interest groups or Democratic candidates he chooses to sell it to, it would provide a gold mine of information and access to potential donors. [emphasis mine]

Excuse me, sell my info? Yes, that's right. All of us who have donated or signed up on Barack Obama's list should have read the fine print.

People who provide their information on line may not realize that the data they are posting at may have a long afterlife and find its way to other campaigns in future election cycles.

According to the Obama campaign's online privacy statement, it reserves the right to ``make personal information available to organizations with similar political viewpoints and objectives, in furtherance of our own political objectives.''

Truthfully, when I signed up, I didn't see the privacy statement though I could have taken some time to find it and read it in detail. But shouldn't a campaign have to explicitly spell out for you, in plain view, that when you donate, participate, sign up for updates, that your information can and will be sold to outside groups? Shouldn't you have a say in which groups your info goes to?

Lists that are built by campaigns should be used for that campaign's purposes. Gargantuan databases with voter preferences and demographics (commonly known as the voter file) should be the purview of the DNC or RNC, and only those who provide their info willingly should be in it.

My friend and former classmate Kari Chisholm addressed this issue last year on his Politics and Technology blog.

For starters, you've gotta keep your promises - whatever expectations you set with your subscribers. Usually, campaigns say things like "we won't give away, sell, rent, or trade your email address." Don't break that promise.

Next, even if you never made an explicit promise, you gotta ask: Is there an implied one? Would people be angry if the candidate gave their personal contact info to some organization they've never heard of? Probably...

After all, the friendly organization doesn't have an opt-in from those folks. When they email them, that's spam. And you'll be the one that made it happen.

The most important thing is to maintain that sense of trust and personal connection that she's built. The best way to do that, and still be helpful to your friends, is to send an email from the candidate to the audience - with a personal endorsement of the organization... and suggest that people sign up there.

I have to agree with Kari. While I may be inclined to support or join groups allied with Senator Obama's campaign, I'd prefer to be asked directly if I'd like to be involved and to opt-in.

And don't get me started on Hillary's claims of raising $10 million in 24 hours. Regardless of who you support, isn't it time for campaign finance reform?

[Update by Ken] Full Disclosure: I am a supporter of Barack Obama. I know NPI has endorsed Obama, but I wanted to make it clear that I'm personally supporting Obama, and this post is just meant as criticism of the campaign.


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