As digital profiling evolves, media may be not just users but source of valuable demographics ::ethics alert::

Ken Goldstein, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and former president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group

So, they’re saying that people in this area are listening to this music, and people in this area tend to vote for this particular candidate. So they’re not really addressing it to the individual.

Now, what’s going on with other technologies in terms with return path data, so all the folks out there who are using DVRs, those DVRs are tracking all of your tuning patterns, what you’re watching, what you’re fast-forwarding through, what commercials you’re watching and not watching.

That can be connected with other individual level data about you. And that’s what’s really being used to target.

Read and view the full piece at How ‘microtargeting’ works in political advertising | PBS NewsHour

One very interesting observation here by Ken Goldstein, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and former president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group: Some lawmakers concerned about such use of personal digital demographics have tried to limit access to that information by campaigns and others. However, those efforts are almost always killed before getting to a vote because the political parties themselves want that info. So while someone might desire to pass a law to protect people’s info from invasive use by commercial interests, the politicians have their own interests in not outright restricting use of people’s info in this way.

Therefore, despite all the huff and puff about securing digital privacy, one might infer a trend that the future more likely holds increased accumulation and application of digital profiling for a variety of purposes.

A related piece from Frontline in 2012 examined how the presidential campaigns have become so sophisticated that they can zero in on the specific house on a block where there is a potential swinger voter.

Here’s the point as this applies to the future of news media:

When it comes to such Big Data discussions, the typical assumption is that news media’s main role will be using such data as they collect or can otherwise acquire about their public’s news consumption habits to more purposefully develop and target their news products and services at individuals and at more focused groups. However, if you look at this scenario from a different angle, the media could also react to such a trend by evolving a new component of their business model along these lines, as a provider of such demographic information.

I’m not getting into the ethical considerations of that here, of which there are many. It would be a whole, new front in the classic battle between the journalistic and business sides of commercial news media.

But just consider if digital profiling becomes an increasing norm of our society, something that the average person comes to more or less accept because of its prevalence, the way Millennials already have less concern than their parents about their detailed activities being broadcast to the world through Twitter and Facebook. Consider if this new norm essentially mitigated the backlash of ethical, legal and public relations concerns that otherwise might hold a purely commercial entity in check on its use or distribution of such information.

In that future world, what could tell someone more about how an individual thinks, what issues a person cares about and who a person might vote for, than the news that person selects and how long he or she spends with particular items of content?