This week, the Wall Street Journal discussed just how fine online targeting companies can get thanks to online behavioral targeting companies like RapLeaf. For what it’s worth, RapLeaf seems to make a good faith effort to keep certain personally identifiable information private, but that’s a little like putting toothpaste back in a tube.
So here’s an interesting hypothetical: does this become part of campaign opposition research?
Obviously, a campaign couldn’t call up RapLeaf for a file on a particular user, but there are other ways to get private records. Medical records are the best example: one candidate will release full medical records to demonstrate a clean bill of health; if an opponent doesn’t do the same thing, it looks like they have something to hide.
Let’s say a squeaky clean candidate goes to RapLeaf and wants to buy the file they have on him or her. After a thorough review by the campaign staff, the record is released to the media. The opponent has to do the same thing, right?
It could be interesting to see where candidates spend their time online. We as an electorate would be able to peer into the brains behind the names on the ballot. Sure, we would learn where they get their news, what pundits they read, and what issues are really the most important to them. But we could also learn how much time they spend playing Farmville, which YouTube videos of windsurfing ostriches they’ve commented on, and whether they’re into midget porn.
In other words, it could offer a treasure trove of embarrassing and/or hilarious moments for the campaigns of tomorrow.