Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Big Data and Politics

Much of the talk regarding business intelligence and "big data" is directed towards government and the private sector; however, Barack Obama's 2012 presidential campaign helped to pioneer the use of "big data" in political campaigns.

Before entering Heinz College this past fall, I went to a Heinz welcome event hosted by Deloitte. I met an individual who works in Deloitte's burgeoning public sector analytics department. We didn't get a chance to talk much about his current work because he was telling me about his experiences modeling predictive models for the purpose of targeting likely voters during President Obama's 2012 campaign. This individual had a hand in developing algorithms using data from emails, prior elections, and social media to ensure that the Obama campaign was using their resources optimally. After reading "A different game" in the Economist and learning about how data mining can help companies find relationships that lead to happier customers and bigger profits, I decided to look into how the Obama campaign was able to make inroads in so many communities. A Washington Post article in 2012 noted how the campaign's engineers not only used cloud technology to keep loads of voter data, but also were able to acquire information about voters from things like their car and whether they have a hunting license, in addition to social media information (Timberg and Gardner 2012). Then, once the campaign gathered this information, it identifies who could possibly help spread the word about the campaign. The campaign was actually able to place their loudest supporters with people of the same"lifestyles" to encourage others to get out and vote. Obama was very successful at doing this in swing states, which is part of the reason why his campaign was so successful ("Big Data Meets Presidential Politics."

Despite the fact that your new friend in fall of 2012 who just loved to talk politics was probably just put up to the task by the Obama campaign, it is pretty amazing what organizations can do with "big data." There is no question that this is a continuing trend in politics. However, while this is beneficial to campaigns, what are the privacy considerations? Both parties have a record of whether your voted--although it's illegal to see who you voted for--but are you comfortable with our elected officials having a record of what you buy on the internet, the apps you download, how active you are on social media, or what magazine you subscribe to?


Craig Timberg and Amy Gardner. 2012. "Democrats push to redeploy Obama's voter database." Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/democrats-push-to-redeploy-obamas-voter-database/2012/11/20/d14793a4-2e83-11e2-89d4-040c9330702a_story.html.

"Big Data Meets Presidential Politics." CSC. Retrieved from http://www.csc.com/big_data/publications/91710/94409-big_data_meets_presidential_politics.

"A different game." The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/node/15557465.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.