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Friday, May 14, 2010

Will Big Winners in Facebook Privacy Flap Be Politicians?

Posted By on Fri, May 14, 2010 at 3:59 PM

click to enlarge And Facebook users are making it easy for him...
  • And Facebook users are making it easy for him...
We've written a bit about how the furor over Facebook's opening of more user data to prying eyes could cost Attorney General candidate -- and former Facebook Chief Privacy Officer -- Chris Kelly.

But for politicians who don't have high-profile Facebook gigs on their resume, easier access to potential voters' personal data could turn out to be a huge benefit.

Think of all the useful things a politician can learn from his "Facebook fans," said San Francisco political consultant Jim Ross. He uses the Facebook group FixMuniNow -- of which he is a "fan" -- as an example. The keepers of that page can now access far more of their fan's information than before. "They could run all of us folks against the voter file, right?" says Ross. "They could say, 'Jim, you're not registered to vote.' Or 'Hey, Jim -- you live in precinct so-and-so. Would you be a precinct captain?' They wouldn't have known that stuff before."

Indeed, the Electronic Frontier Foundation decried Facebook's new setup as being a boon to data-miners -- and what's a good politician if not a data-miner of his would-be constituents' interests?

click to enlarge Uh, would you be our precinct captain, Tila Tequila?
  • Uh, would you be our precinct captain, Tila Tequila?
Of course, a call from a political campaign to a Facebook user in which the former reveals it has been poring through supposedly "private" data could come off badly. San Francisco political consultant Enrique Pearce certainly saw the value in gleaning the data of politicians' Facebook fans. But he didn't think it would be a good idea to tell them about it. "That," he says "is something I don't recommend be publicized."

Concerns about privacy or no, Pearce only sees Facebook becoming a bigger factor in local, statewide, and national political campaigns. It's easier to get invited onto Facebook than ever -- and, now, eroded privacy allows more people to share more information. That information could include support for certain political candidates or measures. "People give more credence to [Facebook friends' likes and dislikes] than the average mailer," he says.

"What's likely to happen is we're going to find a lot more peer-to-peer communications in terms of campaigns, because they can use their own volunteers to network on Facebook," Pearce continues. "I anticipate that is going to happen with a lot of zeal -- it's inevitable. ... We have not yet seen th e full potential of Facebook for a campaign. But it is the wave of the future for sure."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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