How does Mitt Romney raise those millions of dollars for his campaign? The answer: A secret data-mining process that looks at consumer spending and behavior patterns revealed in all sorts of records, from church attendance to purchasing history. According to the Associated Press, a market research firm previously associated with Bain & Company, the management consulting firm that Romney once led, is behind the secret number-crunching strategy.
The details behind this latest revelation from the campaign trail can be found in a number of regular news channels on the web (like Google News' report or the Huffington Post)—but what should be of concern to church-goers everywhere is the abuse of information formerly thought to be private. Since when is it acceptable or right to use confidential information like this for purposes not originally intended or foreseen by the individual consumer?
Morally, isn’t this one step away from “stealing”? The Romney campaign is stealing millions of consumers’ secret records for their own underhanded purposes. No one ever gave Romney the permission to use their information in this way.
Plus, this practice is another scary reminder of how “big brother” knows more about us than we’d like to imagine. It would be awful to consider what other ways Big Brother Romney could use information like this if he were to get into the White House.
Of course, the American public isn’t totally innocent in this whole scenario. Many of us have just walked into the whole marketing / data mining mess like cattle being led to slaughter. We just let everyone know our private data, unwittingly or not. And then some of the responsibility lies with all the companies who have made it their business to collect this kind of information, feeding tons of material on consumers’ tastes, buying habits, brand preferences, psychological profiles, etc., into databases that are then made available to other companies, at a price.
Where is God in all this? Certainly not in the collection of data about church attendance. That’s a matter best left between the individual and God. And besides, God already knows our hearts, and our church-going habits. Romney’s secret data isn’t going to tell God anything new.
Perhaps where we do find God is in our own righteous anger that the public has been duped in this way, and that our good intentions have been corrupted by evil profit- (or vote-) hungry people who discovered how easy it was to misuse and manipulate ordinary information for unscrupulous political purposes.