Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Obama Database ... Who owns the data? (draft)

draft v02

-Blogging on the Barrack Obama Campaign 2008 Database.
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The massive "opt-in" database launched in early 2007 by Joe Rospars (New Media Director) and the Obama team had provided the Obama '08 campaign a unique opportunity (but not a unique idea) to develop and interact with a rapid (post early adapter) following. These citizens provided an unprecedented amount of personal information while volunteering and contributing funds via Facebook, YouTube (via Obama’s own “channel”), IM, and other “real time” digital interfaces. Viral political campaigning had taken hold for good in this time frame changing the political landscape once and for all, forever. But we knew that already!

Since the Obama campaign opted out of taking matching funds and essentially had not used the DNC apparatus to run its campaign, took what many (drDigipol, CAP, Politico, Salon, Media Bureau, and many others) already knew was going to happen – a virtual candidate that owes nothing to (but is more than happy to use) old media and the old political guard while being able to take over their own destiny via an online centric advocacy campaign.

It had finally become mainstream that (starting at the RNC’s Digital Alley at the 2000 Republican Convention in Philadelphia and followed at the DNC in Los Angeles) online advocacy and activity can translate to offline, on-the-ground results. This was done not just by connecting via the Internet but allowing the user to be enabled and featured. This is contrary to all past campaigns that spent so much time and money "controlling" the message as well as the medium. With the verticalization of (the web) Social Networks such as YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook, and IM as a new strategic Real Time activator/enabler, Obama's New Media team established a permanent platform through which people could identify with (they were already “adapted” users) and use themselves as “activists.” In a rudimentary way, citizens were now part of the campaign, or so they thought. The goal was to quickly activate citizens in the following ways:

1. Ensure that all people would be accessible via a "Mobile" interface and therefore, in touch, at all times, anywhere.
2. Allow and enable for the creation of "Niche Campaigning" via use generated posting of Web Campaign based Videos.
3. Establish Microtargeting scenerios and deliver "themes" and "candidate produced" video and txt interaction directly to people who want it 24/7.
4. Utilize an already existing "Smart" user base generated on Social Networks and the skills they (users / Citizens) have acquired.
5. Buy time on networks that include (niche programming) Cable shows via country wide local programming and reinforce via txt and local “meetup” style home “events.”.
6. Openly engage the Blogosphere instead of shunning them (and in turn establishing counter control problems that could go viral) and interacting as a partner, contrary to your opponents, while offering a “possible” voice in policy and –e-government.
7. Purchase and produce Rich Media Online Ads in content rich niche markets to as to stay “interactive” with Citizen users.
8. Speak directly to niche audiences in the manner in which they are accustomed (language and content style are customized based on hyper market analysis).
9. Provide a central repository (portal) to all that is Barack Obama with that enables citizen / users to:

1. Find and take part in “local” events and groups
2. Be enabled to contact undecided voters within your demographic
3. Be heard.

So with the above, we now have a tightly controlled but an apparently loosely based, group strategy to engage and enable the Digital (2.0) Citizen .

So when the citizen / user signed up and provided the Obama campaign their personal information, did they believe that they were providing the Campaign or the DNC such personal information? We think, clearly, people volunteered their information because they believed that it would be used by the Obama campaign, not the DNC or any other entity (there was no disclaimer to state this would be the case – or was there?) Where will this information go and will citizens who signed up be asked if their information can be used for "party" happenings?

Tactics to generate such information were personal and widespread. For example, “… as the primaries and caucuses neared, what [Steve] Goodstein calls "a big experiment" started paying off. One Sunday afternoon in early December, minutes before Oprah Winfrey and Obama addressed about 29,000 people at a rally in Columbia, S.C., Jeremy Bird, Obama's state field director, asked the crowd to take out their cellphones and text "SC" to 62262, Obama's short code. The code spells "Obama" on phones.” This was done repeatedly through out the campaign generating “millions” of phone numbers and other personal info.

So, who owns the data?
Well, since it is now housed at the DNC, clearly the DNC.


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