This past August, Google and Facebook were both punished by the Federal Trade Commission and the FCC for stealing your most private information.This violation, by the third largest donor to the Barack Obama re-election campaign, might explain what triggered the surprise outcome of our 2012 elections. Voter Data, the lifeblood of politics, was secretly acquired from a giant majority of Americans by Google online strategists, and not just for an edge in advertising and marketing. Just as likely, to create a supreme advantage for the Obama campaign in one of the most crucial U.S. elections ever.
After a year-long investigation and official FTC hearings, Google was sanctioned by the federal government for illegally taking your e-mail addresses. Your home address. Your phone number. Your internet favorites. Your shopping preferences. Even conversations from your own private e-mails. Google was punished for this SECOND violation of consumer privacy with the
biggest fine ever imposed by the FTC: $22.9 million dollars. You might remember reading about it or seeing a report on television, but only briefly. Journalists have mostly missed the long-term impact of this massive internet data theft.
Google captured your shopping preferences and home contact information by slapping “cookies” on your travels via your IPHONE, your IPAD, and your APPLE computer. By penetrating Apple’s popular Safari browser, which Apple claimed was not vulnerable to such tracking, Google had access to literally a GLOBE of daily and continually updating DATA. Apple users are probably the single biggest audience in the world. If Apple computers were targeted, isn’t it likely Google also invented technology to penetrate PC’s as well? The wrist-slap of a $23 million fine, was well worth the infinitely valuable universe of data, which was stolen.
From the LOS ANGELES TIMES, February 18, 2012:
Google Inc. is under fire once again after allegations that it circumvented privacy protections built into the iPhone in order to track what users are doing online.
A privacy researcher at Stanford University said Friday that the Internet search giant had made an end run around a privacy feature in Apple Inc.’s Safari browser, the default Web-surfing software for tens of millions of iPhone, iPad and Macintosh users. Graduate student Jonathan Mayer’s report could deal a serious blow to Google, which in October reached a settlement with federal regulators who had alleged that in
the company’s 2010 attempt at social networking it used “deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers.” Google’s binding agreement with the Federal Trade Commission “bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations.”
Now a group of federal legislators is asking if Google may have violated those terms by allowing advertisers to track Apple users’ online behavior even when those users believed such tracking was disabled.
Even more frightening, Google’s Streetwise operation, which you might know more as GOOGLE MAPS, was also investigated for scooping up sensitive information while its cars passed by your house photographing neighborhood streets. This data and photo gathering effort had the capacity to capture ANYTHING that flowed through your wireless system at home, as the company’s camera cars passed regularly through U.S. streets. Germany and Australian officials have also been pursuing Google for the same predatory efforts. In America, the FTC and FCC estimate this practice was ongoing for at least three years:
The FCC found Google had delayed its inquiry into data collected with custom-equipped cars that cruised streets and took in wireless streams from homes and businesses.
For three years starting in May 2007, the cars collected content from wireless networks that wasn’t needed for that project, according to the FCC’s April 13 findings. Google gathered e-mail and text messages, passwords, Internet-usage history and “other highly sensitive personal
information,” the FCC said.
Google said yesterday it “grounded” its Street View cars upon learning of the unwanted data collection and has cooperated with investigations.
Google, owner of the largest Internet search engine, has come under mounting scrutiny from regulators over how it handles information…..
“Google downloaded the private communications of millions of users with Wi-Fi routers in theUnited States,” Rotenberg said. “That is not permissible under the federal wiretap act. It can’t be.”
Facebook was also caught and punished this past August for stealing consumer information. The FTC demanded that Facebook stop scraping personal
information off purportedly “private” Facebook pages of American consumers and initiated new controls and oversight to last for the next 20 years. The FTC didn’t approve of Facebook promising customers across the country that their personal information was SAFE, when it wasn’t. Indeed, your personal data was not only copied and taken, it was SHARED for profit. From THE NEW YORK TIMES:
In November, the F.T.C. said that Facebook had deceived consumers by telling them that their personal information would be kept private, while “repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.”
The commission voted 3-1, with one abstention, to impose a 20-year consent order requiring Facebook to protect its users’ privacy. The company agreed to give consumers clear and prominent notice and to
obtain their express consent before revealing information beyond their previously stated privacy settings, to maintain a comprehensive program to safeguard private information, and to obtain an independent privacy audit every two years.
Facebook said in a statement on Friday, “We are pleased that the settlement, which was announced last November, has received final approval.” The company did not repeat its assertion, made in November, that it “expressly denies the allegations set forth in the complaint,” but the F.T.C. still considers that statement to be part of the case record.
A Facebook spokesman declined to comment beyond the company’s one-sentence statement.
All of this priceless and illegally acquired “data” has given Facebook and Google a remarkable database and a huge advantage in online advertising. It is possible the companies have also marketed your information to other companies. It is quite likely that this quiet strategy was also undertaken to give an unprecedented advantage
to the Barack Obama campaign in 2012.
Having access to such remarkable and detailed data on the American electorate, would have given the Obama campaign a giant advantage. over the campaign of Mitt Romney, and the campaigns of the entire Republican Party.
From THE NEW YORK TIMES:
The increasingly close relationship between Facebook and Washington worries some privacy advocates who fear it will allow the social networking company to escape government scrutiny. But Facebook, like Google before it, appears to have become irresistible to politicians who see it as a way to connect with young, tech-savvy audiences.
If this emerging theory is true, then Democrat polling information would likely have been more accurate than that of the GOP. Outreach and identification of voters would have been state-of-the-art, permitting the Obama campaign to identify and classify the preferences of even low-propensity voters, by zip code, virtually at every stop sign in America. (Facebook permits advertisers to identify their audiences not just by city, but down to ZIP CODE.)
In all the vital layers of campaigning and especially in Getting Out The Vote efforts, connecting ground volunteers with premium data and online outreach would have been elevated to a new, 21st Century level. Being
privy to an voter’s particular preferences, location, and even chat, would make it possible to identify them, access their friends and identify them, and communicate with a literal universe of voters, DIRECTLY.
Especially In an election year when voters were not watching TV with the same intensity, filtering TV ads out of their viewing, dumping direct mail advertisements in the trash, and turning off telephones to avoid robo-calls, having unfettered access and extraordinary data on voters who communicate online, was a rich opportunity.
In addition to large donations made by Google and Facebook directly to the Obama campaign, Barack Obama’s Blue State Digital Technology consultants literally grew the President’s Facebook page into the size of a COUNTRY, boasting 30 million followers. In several online news articles, the Obama
campaigns committed effort to building out this following was detailed.
By “farming” friends and building relationships with young adults, women and perhaps targeted Latinos, the Obama campaign micro-targeted just the likely voters it needed, in just the zip codes which would win precincts, in any race, county or state in the country.
One million cell phones were also reportedly a part of the Obama campaign strategy in the state of Ohio. The Kitchen Cabinet received reports that Obama followers received text messages with photos of ten of their own Facebook
friends who had not yet voted….asking them to contact them and get them out to the polls.
A fabulous strategy, and made even more vibrant…if Google’s and Facebooks’s illegally-obtained data was also at work.
Meanwhile the GOP, would be using 20th Century means of acquiring data, from decaying lists of merchants, organizations, and marketers around the country.
It is no wonder that pollsters like Dick Morris and Karl Rove were baffled by the turnout, and the results of last Tuesday’s national elections. Their predictions were trumped by Democrats who knew their audience better, communicated with them in custom and personal ways, and got out their votes in almost state-by-state surgical strikes.
The only question is, was it legal?
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Obama and Mark ZuckerbergFollow @TKC_US