Democrats selling voter data to retailers?

posted at 10:01 am on February 5, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The success of the Democratic effort in 2012 was credited in large part to a massive data-mining effort and hyperaccurate microtargeting.  Data collection efforts by Democrats from the ground up allowed the party to fine-tune GOTV efforts and turn out voters that normally would have stayed home.  The technological and demographic edge allowed Barack Obama to win another term as President, and Democrats to pick up seats in the House and Senate, the latter somewhat unexpectedly.

What will Democrats do with all of that data?  Obama’s campaign has already reformed as a political lobbying effort funded by big corporations and special interests, somewhat hypocritically, as AFP pointed out yesterdayProPublica reports today that other Democrats may be selling all of that collected data not just to other activist groups, but also to big businesses:

Now, the record of what people told Democratic volunteers may go up for sale — and not just to political groups. Democrats are looking into whether credit card companies, retailers like Target or other commercial interests may want to buy the information. …

But local Democratic parties also have information about voters’ views and preferences collected over many campaign cycles. (We wrote about Minnesota’s data-collecting“Grandma Brigade” last month.) Some states have used this raw data to create sophisticated estimates of how likely any voter is to vote for a Democrat, support Barack Obama or have certain opinions, say, on abortion or gun control.

As the co-op moves into its second year of selling data in an already crowded marketplace, it’s looking for new potential clients — and companies who may use the data for commercial purposes, as opposed to political ones, are on the list.

“That’s one of our growth areas,” said Drew Brighton of TargetSmart Communications, which helps administer and market the Co-op’s data. “Over the next six months, we are going to go ahead and make the rounds with some corporate prospects.”

Brighton said retailers, for example, might be interested in figuring out if their customers are primarily Democrats or Republicans. “People want to know who shops in their stores,” he said.

Democrats involved with the co-op do not know what companies might be most interested in buying their voter data.

“What the co-op is doing is saying, ‘Look, there’s a wealth of information here, that could potentially benefit your corporation or your business interests,’” said Ken Martin, a member of the co-op’s board, and the chairman of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.

They say that Wal-Mart won’t get an offer, but why not?  After all, I see other Democratic bêtes noires on the list — credit card companies, big corporations.  If it brings in cash, why quibble?  We’re no longer debating over what they will have become; it’s now merely haggling over price.

In the future, voters will become a lot more cautious about sharing that kind of information, once they realize that Democrats sold it for a few bucks.  Talk about killing the goose laying the golden eggs.


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