Obama’s Manhattan Project: Breaching privacy and profiting from it

tumblr_mfwzemOwQR1rgfmmyo1_500Coming off the cusp of the abysmal failure that was the launch of the Obamacare website, Obama’s senior data analytics team have emerged from the auspices of the secretive analytics department of their Chicago-based campaign offices into data mining prominence by launching BlueLabs – a strategic data, analytics and technology firm.  Using sophisticated microtargeting and predicative modeling analytics used during the 2012 presidential re-election campaign, BlueLabs offers to replicate its big data solutions to political campaigns and progressive nonprofits.

Coined “as the data firm behind McAuliffe’s win,” newly launched BlueLabs credits its predictive persuasion methodologies with securing the recent gubernatorial and senatorial electoral victories in New Jersey and Virginia.

In a football field-sized office filed with data servers “where hundreds of specialists crunched numbers,” Obama analysts consolidated their 2008 databases and increased its 2012 analytic staff to five times the size of its staff during the 2008 campaign.  Obama campaign manager Jim Messina focused on rolling out a “ metric-driven kind of campaign.”

With door-to-door canvassing tactics obsolete, the real campaign was conducted behind closed doors shrouded in secrecy.  Obama data analysts had “access to information about the personal lives of voters never before imagined.”

In his article, Not Just the NSA: Politicians Are Data Mining the American Electorate, John Nichols states, “Whereas much of commercial online data collection tends to keep the actual identities of computer users anonymous…political campaigns had every incentive to know who exactly was connected to the online profiles and where exactly they lived. There was no such thing as ‘too much information’.”

The public now knows the sordid details of the NSA’s code-named PRISM program – how the NSA and FBI tapped directly into the central servers of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook extracting personal photos, emails, chats and various personal documents of the American people.  “If you used Facebook to log onto the Obama campaign’s Web site, you revealed to them your entire social network.”  What we call a breach, they call querying.

Now that extracted information is being extrapolated for the purpose of developing predictive persuasion methodologies, becoming data gold.

With BlueLabs already claiming prominence in the political and nonprofit sectors, they have begun to expand their big data offerings to the healthcare market.  BlueLabs recently partnered with Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers (CCHP) in New Jersey, “applying those same techniques to improving public health outcomes.”  Although health information exchange between emergency rooms, private doctors and community clinics is useful in the terms of cost and quality control, it could prove dangerous in the hands of the politically motivated.

With an administration that has a record of railroading over the rights of privacy while dismissing their conduct as consequence of elections, it is hard to trust their road of good intentions.  As altruistic it sounds to have healthcare access for all, we are left with higher premiums, the task of obtaining new doctors and a permanent part time workforce.

The lack of concern and lack of sense of urgency surrounding the functionality of the Obamacare website is telling.  Like many administration officials in the wake of unanswered questions and hearings, the administration’s data team has moved on, leaving behind loose ends that are of no further interest to them, that no longer suit their purposes.

There will still be an element of the public that remains under the belief that Obamacare is all about access and coverage.  These are the same who still believe that Obama only learned of the NSA intelligence gathering practices from the press.  And I would like to sell those people beachfront property in Riyadh.

Leslie Deinhammer

Illinois PolitiChick Leslie Anne Deinhammer, writer, chaplain and proud wife of a Marine Corps veteran, writes on topics of politics, human rights and faith. Follow her at @lesliedhammer on Twitter.

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