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Daily Digest: Is What Obama Knows of Us Worth Worrying Over?

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, December 12 2008

  • Obama Campaign Knows What You Did Last Summer: That the Obama campaign has a meticulously-gathered collection of data on our shoe sizes and coffee preferences stored in some pulsating brain deep below Chicago should, writes New York Law School's James Grimmelmann in the New Republic, raise concerns. (Thanks Shaun Dakin) With the caveat that we lack some critical details on just how well-oiled the Obama data operation truly was, Grimmelmann argues that, post-election '08, more is known about us by political campaigns than ever before. That's particularly unsettling when you consider that, at least traditionally, campaign organizations scatter to the wind once the votes are counted. And, Grimmelmann writes, our data doesn't have the same protections when it's in hands of a presidential candidate as it does when its controlled by, say, a credit card behemoth or even Uncle Sam himself. But don't get too worried, says Grimmelmann. The Obama campaign lacks the one thing that would make abusing our data likely: motivation.

  • Letters to Santa the President-Elect: McClatchy's Frank Greve casts a healthily skeptical eye on what, beyond the jittery excitement, Change.gov truly amounts to. Former PdF keynoter and author Clay Shirky is notably enthusiastic, branding the transition site "obviously fantastic." But you can't help but keep from going all-in on when you hear things like what Greve got from Obama press aide Jen Psaki. On the stories and ideas solicited from 'we the people,' Psaki says the transition has "an incredible group of volunteers who read through the essays with a goal of reading through them all if possible." While every writer loves an audience, no matter how teeny, what then exactly happens to our genius ideas and heartfelt musings? If you happen to be one of those volunteers, we'd love to hear from you in the comments.

  • American Priorities Beyond Blago: Long-time activist on the left Bob Fertik, perhaps best known as the force behind Democrats.com,* says the questions bubbling up on Change.gov's Open for Questions forum show that Americans haven't joined the media in the trap of obsessing over a scheming and bumbling floppy-haired Illinois governor whose name no one could pronounce last week. This questioning session wrapped at midnight, with 978,947 votes on 10,303 questions from 20,463 people, and the site's top questions, Fertik says, are a "thoughtful and intelligent list." Take this one from Diane of the great state of New Jersey: "What will you do to establish transparency and safeguards against waste with the rest of the Wall Street bailout money?" Writes Bob, "I can't wait for Obama's answers!" If Obama actually does answer Change.gov's questions rather than the ones called out to him at press conferences, then we might not even have to wait until this scandal du jour blows over.

  • Legislative Death Match: It's the Global Poverty Act of 2007 vs. the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008, and extending unemployment benefits seven weeks wins! Open Congress, always on the hunt for new ways to pull meaning out of which pieces of legislation Americans find most provocative, has launched Battle Royale, a legislative face-off between bills before Congress. (Note: our Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry are advisors to the Sunlight Foundation, which funds Open Congress.) Among the more interesting findings of the trial run of the project is that users of Open Congress are most turned on right now by civil liberties -- a finding similar across some of the other "you decide" sites that have sprung up of late, from Change.gov to Change.org's Ideas for Change in America (to which techPresident is a partner) to ObamaCTO.org.

  • Did RNC's Duncan Take a Mulligan on Website Backdrop?: The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reports that current Republican National Committee chair Mike Duncan swapped out the background image on his MikeforChairman.com site at some point after conservative consultant David All gave him a hard time about it on Twitter. All derided the country club page background as elitist and "exactly what is wrong with the GOP." Duncan partisans, though, brushed off the idea that the rotating background change had anything to do with the dust-up. Just who's the more tech-savvy is becoming a factor in the battle over who will head up the GOP. For his part, All is backing Saul Anuzis, whom you might remember from a recent Politico op-ed on the need to rebuild the Republican Party via the 'net, co-written with one David All.

  • A Little Friday Fun: Via Funny or Die, the "President-elect" tries to pull in bigger numbers for his weekly YouTube addresses by tapping into some proven Internet hooks.

In Case You Missed It...

Micah Sifry has some more hints on what's going down with "Obama for America 2," a.k.a. the next phase of the organization that Obama built. Micah has a look at a memo that went out from HQ to volunteers who attended last week's organizing summit in Chicago.

Nancy Scola highlights an European Union open-government project that's shining light on where, exactly, billions of euros in farm subsidies are spent each year.

Gene Koo has wrapped up his liveblogging of this week's Internet and politics event at Harvard's Berkman Center. Be sure to check it out.

*(Corrected from Democrats.org, which is, in fact, the DNC's actual website. Confusing, no?)