August 29, 2012

AP ‘Exclusive’ Claims Romney’s ‘Secretive’ Data-Mining ‘the First’ — Except That Obama’s Started a Month Earlier

In one of the more disgraceful reports emanating from the Associated Press this year, the self-decribed Essential Global News Network’s Jack Gillum breathlessly told readers in a report tagged “exclusive” on Friday that Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign is employing “secretive data-mining” to “sift through Americans’ personal information” so they can “identify new and likely wealthy donors.” This awful strategy targets Americans who reveal information about themselves “often unwittingly when they swipe their credit cards or log into Facebook.”

On and on Gillum droned for over 1,000 words, claiming that “The effort by Romney appears to be the first example of a political campaign using such extensive data analysis.” Y’know, Jack, you really need to look outside the AP bubble every once in a while, if for no other reason than to avoid the utter embarrassment which follows the jump.

On June 9, eleven weeks before the AP report, the Politico revealed that Team Obama had already built a probably more sophisticated data-mining operation than what Romney’s campaign has created.

Of course, when a Democratic campaign engages in data-mining, it’s a sign of political genius and being ahead of the curve, not something “secretive” which preys on the “unwitting.” The tone set by Politico’s Lois Romano was clearly positive and admiring (bolds are mine):

Obama’s data advantage

CHICAGO — On the sixth floor of a sleek office building here, more than 150 techies are quietly peeling back the layers of your life. They know what you read and where you shop, what kind of work you do and who you count as friends. They also know who your mother voted for in the last election.

The depth and breadth of the Obama campaign’s 2012 digital operation — from data mining to online organizing — reaches so far beyond anything politics has ever seen, experts maintain, that it could impact the outcome of a close presidential election. It makes the president’s much-heralded 2008 social media juggernaut — which raised half billion dollars and revolutionized politics — look like cavemen with stone tablets.

it’s also not at all clear that Romney can come close to achieving the same level of technological sophistication and reach as his opponent.

… “It’s all about the data this year and Obama has that. When a race is as close as this one promises to be, any small advantage could absolutely make the difference,” says Andrew Rasiej, a technology strategist and publisher of TechPresident. “More and more accurate data means more insight, more money, more message distribution, and more votes.”

Launched two weeks ago, Obama’s newest innovation is the much anticipated “Dashboard,” a sophisticated and highly interactive platform that gives supporters a blueprint for organizing, and communicating with each other and the campaign.

… In addition, by harnessing the growing power of Facebook and other online sources, the campaign is building what some see as an unprecedented data base to develop highly specific profiles of potential voters. This allows the campaign to tailor messages directly to them — depending on factors such as socio-economic level, age and interests.

“They are way ahead of Romney micro-targeting and it’s a level of precision we haven’t seen before,” says Darrell M. West, a leading scholar on technology innovation at the Brookings Institution. “[The Obama campaign has] been able to work on it under the radar during the Republican primary season.”

Romney campaign officials acknowledge that they have had neither the time, nor the resources to build a complex digital operation as they were fighting their way through the prolonged primary season. “It wasn’t something we were going to put resources into if he wasn’t the nominee,” said one adviser.

With Romney at AP, data-mining is “secretive.” With Obama at Politico, it’s (cleverly) done “under the radar.” Zheesh.

“Launched two weeks ago” places the start-up of the Obama data-mining operation as the week before Memorial Day. Gillum vaguely claims that the Romney operation “began as early as June,” which leaves open the possibility that it really started in July. It’s clear that Team Obama had roughly a month’s head start, and that there’s no way Romney’s effort is “the first.”

In reality, there’s nothing unusual, as in absolutely nothing newsworthy, in what Gillum relayed about the Romney campaign’s data-mining effort, rendering the AP reporter’s 1,000-plus word “exclusive” a pile of dishonest rubbish. Either the AP and its editors are breathtakingly ignorant — or, serving in their current role as the Administration’s Press, they don’t care  if they transmit clearly false information as long as it puts Dear Leader’s opponent in a bad light.

Cross-posted at


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