It used to be that people were worried about all the data that the government collected on them, and would refer to things like "Big Brother." However, more recently, with the rise of huge database companies and serious data collection and data mining efforts in the private sector, people have begun to realize that it's really the corporations that are keeping the closest tabs on you. However, that doesn't mean politicians can't use that data themselves. The Associated Press is running an article about the level of sophistication being used behind the scenes by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign. Rather than more general statistics, they've taken a page out of just about any large company's marketing textbook and have purchased access to all sorts of demographic data from things like what you drink to what you drive to what you read -- on the assumption that they can then use this data to better target people more likely to vote for the governor's re-election in their "get out the vote" effort. The opposing campaign claims that this "microtargeting" is simply being used to "manipulate people" while giving different messages to different people. However, it's not clear why that's so bad, if the targeted messages are actually relevant. It does seem a little creepy to find out the level to which they can segment voters, but it's really no different than what companies do these days. Of course, for those who are still uncomfortable about all of this, perhaps it'll make you feel more comfortable to know that much of the data these firms have is often wrong.
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