This past week, it has come to light that the data analytics used by the Republican Party during last year’s Presidential campaign, were improperly stored in a cloud service, and the data has been exposed for an unknown period of time. Simply put, the personal details and voting habits and preferences of 198 million Americans is now a public document that geeks and political pundits have access to.
At one level, the data is harmless. It’s only the personal information required to vote, including name, address, phone number and date of birth. But added to this is at least $5 million dollars worth of political insights and modelling, with hundreds of data points for each person, including political party registration, voting history (obviously not who was voted for, but whether a person votes or not), “modelled” ethnicity, “modelled” religious affiliation, and then sophisticated modelling to indicate on a scale of 1 to 100 the likelihood of each of these 198 million people agreeing or disagreeing with specific government policies and social issues.
It’s a goldmine for political campaigning.
Three questions jump to mind, and are worth considering for you and your organisation:
- How secure is the data in your organisation? Are you sure? It boggles my mind that once again, we have what appears to be a very basic error by people handling large data pools. This database wasn’t even targetted or hacked. It was just left open to the public.
- Do you have valuable data, and how well are you using it? I am convinced that clever engagement with key targeted voters was what won Donald Trump an improbable victory last year. This database was probably at the core of that campaign. Well done to the RNC for gathering the data and using it so well. What data could your organisation use? Where would you get it from? How valuable would it be to you to have this level of insight into your market? What are you doing about this issue at the moment?
- Are you happy to live in a world where who you are is analysed and dissected, and the knowledge about you used to target and influence you? You know what… I actually am. As long as there are three safeguards in place: (1) it must be done with my consent: I want to know when you’re gathering information and make assumptions about me. (2) It must get cleverer, smarter and more predictive: I definitely want Amazon to learn about my shopping habits, and do a better job of recommending products to me. I am tired of Amazon thinking I am pregnant, just because I bought a baby-grow for a friend last week. (3) It must be secure. If I give one company permission to get to know me better in order to provide a better service to me, I don’t want that information making it’s way to everyone everywhere for whatever purpose. Which brings us back to questions 1 and 2.
There’s your thought for the day. And maybe a bigger one if you’re an American voter: how free and fair do you think your election actually was, when we know for sure how easy it is to manipulate perceptions, thoughts and emotions?
Cybercrime, cyberethics and cyberactivity are going to be at the heart of the next steps in Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Machine Learning.