After spending time on campaigning and political communication, there is one topic I wished we spent more time discussing – the right to privacy. This week we focused attention on Kreiss and Welch’s, “Controlling the Message in a Networked Age: Data, Strategic Communications, and the 2012 Presidential Election,” which examines how Obama managed to win the 2012 election. Kreiss and Welch focused on data the campaign collected to target voters. But is such collection lawful? Or does it violate the right of citizens?

What I found most intriguing (or disturbing) in Kreiss and Welch’s article was the symbiotic relationship between local elections and the Obama campaign. The technologies created at the national level were given to local campaigns to use and fill with data on voters as long as the Obama campaign got to use the database created.

Can Google collect data on you based on your searches and sell it to companies? Yes, because you agreed to willingly give the information and let them sell it by using their products. There are other brands that can serve the same function as Google, and operating in free market logic, if you do not want someone having your private information you can use a different brand or choose not to use the internet all together. Bottom line, it’s your choice. But is it your choice to be included in a big database for political parties? I don’t think so.

Even if you opted to give personal information to a local campaign, can a national campaign of the same party use it? There can be a case made it’s okay to do so if it’s expressly made clear the information you are giving over to a specific local election will be put into a big database for a national campaign to use. But even that situation comes with murky lines, and I would argue against it.

There is no guarantee this is a one-time deal for a national campaign to use. Your private information is now essentially part of the party’s database. You will be searched and targeted for campaigns and elections that you did not agree to. And there is no contract or agreement made or can be made to acknowledge this. Political parties are tied to the government. Can public officials running for reelection use your private information you did not knowingly give away for their campaign? The answer should be no.

Your private information will essentially be in a database tied to the government. As the federal government increasingly pushes the boundaries of its powers, I worry over people’s blasé nature over private data collection. When I hear people say, “I have nothing to hide,” I clench my teeth in frustration. It doesn’t matter if you have nothing to hide or not, government entities do not have the constitutional right to collect and store private information about citizens. Even for lawbreakers, government institutions must go through proper channels to obtain warrants. And said warrants are used for a specific case and expire in time.

By allowing an institution so tightly connected with the government free reign over collecting private information, we are setting a dangerous precedent and sending a dangerous signal to the federal government. The fourth amendment, along with the entire Bill of Rights, exists to protect you from government coercion. Let’s stop making it easy for the government to take away our privacy rights. If we don’t, I fear which rights the government will target next and the ease it will have if we continue to let it expand power and corrode the Constitution.

Kreiss, Daniel, and Welch, Creighton, “Controlling the Message in a Networked Age: Data, Strategic Communications, and the 2012 Presidential Election.” Web. 14 Oct. 2014.


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