If there is a truth in this world, it is that media reports can seldom be taken at face value. Note the recent article from Fox News. (Click) It speaks of an FBI gag rule that prevented agents from revealing facts about Hillary Clinton’s emails. The implication of a cover-up is clear, but is it true? Well, during his interview on the OPB News Hour, FBI Director, James Comey, admitted as much. The gag rule, he explained, applies to all FBI investigations. The impropriety Fox News had suggested turned out to be a long standing department policy and probably a good one.
If a simple bureaucratic rule can become the source of misinformation, imagine how much disinformation is possible during national elections. Take polls, for example. Because they can be so misleading, (Blo 4/26/16), Gallup, a pioneer in the field, has opted out of this year’s presidential contest. (“The Voting Machine,” by Garrett M. Graff, Wired, July 2016, pg. 85.)
Pollsters who remain are relying on big data collection for greater accuracy. These improvements come at a loss of personal privacy, however. We may not feel the impact immediately because it will take time to gather pertinent information. Nonetheless, plans for the future are to assign every person in the country a seven-digit identifier—a kind of lifetime political passport number – which follows people no matter where they move. (Ibid, pg. 85.)
Catalist, a for profit company, has been at work developing its database since 2006. (Ibid pg. 85) While its work is incomplete, the Democrats, hoping for an edge, have hired their services for the 2016 campaign. Donald Trump prefers to act on his instincts rather than data. How he fares against technology will be interesting. In the meantime, the public sits like flies caught in a web, watching its personal information being extracted from election offices, bureaus of public record, social media, and the internet at large. The good news is that as we are no longer a homogenous culture but a highly diversified one. Data companies will require a few more years to complete their research.
Some members of Congress have argued we should use this interim to build our defenses. Will we heed the warnings from US Senators like Al Franken and Ron Wyden? Will we rage against our seven-digit identifiers? Or will we choose to go gently into that good night?