When I was in “lower middle management” of a political party circa 1990, we too were using data of various kinds to make campaign decisions. While I wasn’t directly involved in the higher end advertising, I know the party employed a marketing company to create several newspaper/TV ads — and the selected the better ads by watching a well defined focus group. It seems strange that this was never regarded as sinister.
If we really want to break the hold manipulators of big data have on governance, then we should look at a different system of governance. As long as we keep the parties in place, the parties will rely and more and more on big and bigger data to craft their message.