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Facebook for AG

April 28, 2010

At the intersection of internet privacy concerns and the California AG race lies this blogpost. First, GMail’s feature that reads our e-mail and puts ads in front of us that it thinks we’ll click on is unsettling. As an example, I was looking for a certain ad to show in this post, so I typed in ‘attorney general’ and I got it:

This is an ad by Chris “Mini-Meg” Kelly, Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook, who is running for Attorney General of California. The GMail feature is, as I said, a little bit freaky, although they say its done by algorithms and no human actually sees our email. As we all know, Facebook has privacy issues of its own, especially the recent changes (which almost got me to give up my account, before I acquiesced to Big Brother), over which Kelly presumably had oversight.

In the ad, he’s telling us to support him so that we can counter Meg Whitman’s stated goal of repealing healthcare reform. Of course, this is just posturing. Whitman can’t compel her attorney general to sue the federal government so any Democratic AG would do just fine in that respect and anyway the other lawsuits by state AGs will most likely go nowhere so even a Republican AG would just be wasting state funds as opposed to rolling back Obama’s signature accomplishment.

The thing is, though, that the most significant feature of Kelly’s campaign is just like Meg Whitman’s: he’s trying to buy the election with his personal wealth. Yesterday, he contributed another $4 million to his own campaign, bringing his current total up to $8 million. Also, similar to the earlier part of Whitman’s campaign, he hasn’t said anything of substance. As of now, he’s defined by his money.

A quick perusal of his campaign website shows that he is very comfortable with Tough On Crime rhetoric, though he does temper it with a teaspoon’s of  reasonable proposals. On the other hand, San Francisco AG Kamala Harris (whose email list I subscribe to, as you can see) has written a book that attempts to move past the three-strikes-and-we’ll-spend-$50k-a-year-on-you-for-the-rest-of-your-life mindset of currently prevalent in California. Considering the ever-rising cost of prisons and incarceration in California, and Meg Whitman’s stated goal of locking more people up, Harris would oppose to Whitman in a substantial way, unlike Kelly. She also has, um, experience, though apparently being a tech executive could be the more significant qualification for statewide office in California these days.

That was kind of all over the place, so, to review:

  • Kelly has a lot of money and has encouraged Facebook publicize our personal information.
  • Harris has experience and the right approach to crime.
  • Facebook and GMail have creepy privacy rules.
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