MARKETING DATABASE OF EVERY JEWISH AMERICAN COLLEGE STUDENT CANCELLED
So evidently the Israeli government had been developing a database of all Jewish college students in the US. The idea was to market to the roughly 350,000 college kids Israeli material, as reported to the Blot. Using strategic advertising methods, the purpose was to foster interest among Jewish American students in Israel itself, Judaism in general, as well as Israeli events and activities. Yet recently Israel cancelled the development of this massive list of young Jews in America.
WHAT WERE THE MOTIVES OF CREATING A JEWISH COLLEGIATE DATABASE? IS MARKETING WORTH THE RISK OF SUCH A LIST?
Some might wonder at the idea of making an identifiable list of virtually all college age Jewish college students in the US as being an insanely bad and dangerous idea. Consider if you will what someone of nefarious intent might do if they knew who and where all these kids were. What could go wrong? It’s also not a benign idea to create a marketing list to as a delivery system for what sounds an awful lot like cultural and commercial propaganda. But it’s clear that propaganda has increasingly been commercialized at the state level all the more in recent years.
DATABASE FUNDED BY ISRAELI GOVERNMENT, PRIVATE DONORS AND “PARTNERED ORGANIZATIONS”
As the reported, Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs had been working on the project in conjunction with Mosaic United, a state-affiliated fundraising organization that also finances programs connecting Jewish college students, businesses leaders as well as philanthropists worldwide with Israel. That’s a major operation that ties into a myriad of relationships and a wide range of related goals. The Israeli government provides one-third of the funding for these Mosaic United’s projects, the remainder coming from what are described as private donors and partnered organizations. Prior to the database being scrapped, Mosaic United had invited bids on the project from Israeli technology companies on its site.
MASSIVE DATA MINE OF 350,000 JEWISH COLLEGE STUDENTS TO INCLUDE INFO ON SCHOOL, CARS, MUSIC, FASHION, POLITICS
The database of the “some 350,000 students” was to have included the college they attended, local Israeli/Jewish events in the nearby area, and “daily structural mapping of Jewish/Israeli online content,” Haaretz had quoted the invitation for bids (or “tenders”) as saying. Students were to have been further divided into sub-groups for micro-targeting purposes (an interest in cars, certain styles of music, fashion or politics, for example), with the idea of targeting them with social media packages strategically based on what they’d be most responsive to.
That sounds an awful lot like Facebook’s ability to deliver sponsored content to a hyper tailored subset group of people, which is still a news item related to Russia and Trump’s Presidential victory. But this project was essentially a state sanctioned effort to obtain fairly revealing information about an extremely large group of young people it sought to influence.
DATABASE CANCELLED AFTER FIRST REPORTS OF DEVELOPMENT BECAME PUBLIC
In response to Haaretz’s reporting, Mosaic United has cancelled plans for the database and removed the original request for bids/tenders. In a statement, Mosaic United said that the written tender did not “reflect the essence of the intended project and caused undue confusion.” The project is now currently “on hold and any further discussion will be based on the directive of the Steering Committee.” In other words, once news of the project became public, it couldn’t survive any further scrutiny.
Rabbi Avraham Infeld, a senior member of Mosaic United’s advisory board, announced plans to resign after he was told of the project. Haaretz reported that no one on Mosaic United’s advisory board was actually consulted about the database. Infeld formerly led Hillel International, which is the world’s largest Jewish student organization.
In its statement, Hillel International told Haaretz that it had only been made aware of the project after their inquiry. They fully support the decision to take it down.
“We immediately investigated and made clear to Mosaic United our objections to this initiative,” said Hillel International. “We believe the initiative in this tender is not in the best interest of engaging American Jewish college students. Based on our objections, Mosaic United has agreed to take down the tender from its website and cancel this initiative. We appreciate Mosaic United’s swift response to our concerns.”