Who's mining your data in the transit and transportation plebiscite?

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      I've been poking around on the Internet trying to figure out how the B.C. Liberals decided to include a transit referendum in their 2013 election platform. But I still haven't been able to determine who came up with this clunker of an idea.

      Was it Mike de Jong? Rich Coleman? Or the premier herself?

      At times, I've wondered if a confederate of Stephen Harper might have slipped it into the B.C. Liberal platform in the hope that it would provide data-mining opportunities in advance of the next federal election.

      This would explain the initial promise to hold the vote to coincide with municipal elections on November 15, 2014.

      When the mayors went ballistic over the timing of what was then known as a "referendum", the B.C. Liberals moved the vote back a few months.

      It's still being held well before this fall's federal election.

      One thing is certain: the timing of this plebiscite is giving Conservative data miners a golden opportunity to identify potential supporters in advance of the next federal vote.

      What is data mining?

      It's using sophisticated technology to gather and analyze data from a variety of sources and perspectives to create a summary of useful information. Taken to an extreme, it enables organizations to create profiles of customers, citizens, and, yes, voters.

      In politics, data mining enables campaigns to predict what messages will likely resonate with specific groups of voters—and what might actually get them to show up to cast ballots on Election Day.

      John Nichols, coauthor of Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America, told The Nation that data mining enables political parties to hone their messages to potential donors. This enhances fundraising.

      Nichols also told the left-wing publication that if the public were aware of the extent of data mining in elections, "they would be as uncomfortable where our politics is going as they are where a lot of the corporate data mining is going and, quite appropriately, where a lot of the government data mining is going."

      "One of the great untold stories of the last several years in politics has been the transformation of our politics from a focus on the old-school television advertising, maybe even a little bit of digital advertising on websites, to high-stakes data mining," Nichols said. 

      What does this have to do with a transit plebiscite?

      As the August Views website points out, both the yes side and the no side are using the NationBuilder platform to get their messages out to voters.

      According to August Views, the yes side carries a disclaimer on its site that no information will be shared without the person's consent.

      There's not a similar disclaimer on the No TransLink Tax website, which urges people to "pledge their vote" and donate money.

      Those who pledge to vote no on the website are encouraged to supply their first and last name, email, and postal code.

      That's useful information for a political party. Especially one that wants to identify voters who don't want to pay any more taxes to support transportation improvements. Postal codes are helpful for targeting messages from individual candidates.

      There's no proof that the B.C. Liberals slipped the transit referendum into their platform to expand political data mining in our province. But it will certainly be one of the outcomes on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum.

      Keep in mind, Premier Christy Clark made no mention of data mining when she justified the referendum's inclusion in her party's list of promises on April 15, 2013.

      "I believe we need to keep life affordable for British Columbians, and I believe that British Columbians and people in the Lower Mainland...should have the chance to decide how much transit they want to pay for," Clark said at the time.

      In the end, was it Clark's idea? Rich Coleman's? Or one of the party's advisers, such as former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day?

      So far, voters whose data might be being mined during the plebiscite still have no idea who conceived of this plan.




      Sharon Best

      Mar 12, 2015 at 6:47pm

      Do not forget that any petitions you sign that get sent into the BC Legistlature or the House of Commons can be used in the same way.

      Main reason I don't sign any of them.


      Mar 23, 2015 at 3:03pm

      I vote NO because while the infrastructure is needed in Metro Vancouver, I think the money should come from the property owners who will be benefited the most from the infrastructure and the transit system. Looking at what is happening along the Cambie Corridor, the property got a huge jump in property value because they could now be redeveloped into multiple family. I believe the property owner, when they develop,should pay a special levy for transit system development. I think this is how Richmond raise money for the future Capstan Way station, all developments in the area are paying a per unit levy.
      I disagree that everyone in Metro Vancouver need to pay so that certain property owners can get richer.