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Woodward's Anonymous Sources in Age of Transparency

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, September 10 2010

See, technology is changing politics. Or, at least, political reporting. The Hill's Kevin Bogardus taps the White House's online visitor records database to figured out who Bob Woodward talked to while reporting out his upcoming book, Obama's Wars, due out at the end of the month.

There aren't actually too many surprises in the raw data: Woodward met with David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs, and some mid-level policy staffers. But Woodward has relied upon anonymous sources heavily in the past. And you can see how cross-referencing the hundreds of thousands of White House visitor records -- ones that the Obama administration, in a historic policy change, continually posts online using tools from Socrata, a Seattle-based "social data discovery" company -- with the anecdotes and insights in Woodward's final book could make anonymous sources somewhat less anonymous.

As people who do behavioral online ads will tell you, with enough data to dig through, "anonymous" can pretty quickly turn into something less than an absolute state.