People.Data.Action. This is the slogan of NGP VAN. NGP VAN? This is the name of the company that is involved in "almost every campaign" in the USA, if it serves a good cause. The client list of the "do-gooders" (NGP VAN) includes Barack Obama, various cities and all major American NPOs.

NGP VAN's core business is collecting data. Whatever you and I do online, NGP VAN collects this data and assembles it into a psychogram and an activity profile. The personal fiche shows a circular photo of you at the top left, your phone number and your social media accounts. Three data tabs follow: details of your social contacts, your biography and your income. The data is compiled from 97 social media applications accessed daily, on which you probably also leave a few traces from time to time. The psychogram? Quite simple: how and what we write about reveals who and what we are. A few tweets or posts and an algorithm ensures that your personality profile also ends up in some fiche.

Speaking of fiches: This should be the beginning of a potential new fiche scandal. Last autumn, the Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) warned the national government about "social matching", the official term for spying on and fiching social media activities and profiles. Political parties collect and fiche our data, companies, government agencies, NPOs.

For data protection reasons, this is questionable to the point of being tricky. Whether the digital fiches of the 21st century will have the same explosive power as the typewritten fiches of the 20th century is doubtful. The fact that apps collect all kinds of data about us and at the same time leave us in the dark about what happens with it has become a normality - which would be another scandal per se...

Prof. Dr Stefan Gürtler
Lecturer in Communication
University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland
School of Business
[email protected]

FHNW Logo Posted in Data Protection, Digitalisation

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