On the heels of the 2004 election, one of the things that candidates want is email addresses. Not just any email addresses, but email addresses of likely voters with particular persuasions in their district. Broken down by precinct, if you please.
The fact that they want them isn't surprising. The Internet was shown to be a powerful way to connect to voters during the last election cycle and any tech-savvy political operative knows that its only going to be more so in the next.
We could talk about whether we want to start getting political Spam, but that's not as interesting to me as to think about who has those addresses right now. For example, Amazon, has them, or at least a lot of them. They know your address and they know your email address. What's more, they could even provide a profile of you based on books you read.
Again, we could talk about whether Amazon should sell this information to anyone, political or not, but what's more interesting is the possibility that they could selectively sell the information. They could decide what causes they support and then sell, of give, information to just those causes. This gives Amazon disproportional political leverage.
In a related scenario, raised in my recent discussion with Dan Solove, there's nothing to prevent Amazon from selling or giving information to the Government for whatever reason.
Now, I don't actually think Amazon will do this, but the fact that it's possible raises interesting questions. When I enter into a transaction with a company, I'm not inclined to have them use my information to support causes I don't support.At present, I'm powerless to prevent it. We worry about the government having access to records about what we buy or do, but pay little attention to the aggregation of that same information in the hands of private companies. They have even less accountability to us than the government does. That should trouble us all.