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Tags: data | micro-targeting | voters | campaigns

Politicians Collect Mass of Data to Learn Voters' Preferences

By    |   Monday, 29 December 2014 12:46 PM EST

Political candidates and politicians are using highly sophisticated and detailed levels of data about voters, triggering concerns among privacy-rights activists.

According to Politico, politicians on both sides of the aisle routinely purchase detailed information about voters in a gambit to find more votes. The practice remains an unregulated area of political activity, and even lawmakers who advocate privacy rights appear to oppose any restrictions on data mining.

"I think what you got to do is you've got to look at the people that collect the information, not the politicians that use them," said incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, according to Politico.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, an outspoken champion of privacy rights and critic of the National Security Agency's surveillance program, said political campaigns need not be under the microscope.

"I think there's a difference between the government collecting things without a warrant and people voluntarily allowing their information to be used," he said.

Campaigns purchase information from data agencies, which overlay public voter files with personal information from Facebook feeds, consumer reports, and retailers to get a detailed picture of voter preferences.

One campaign during 2014 targeted voters with hunting licenses or new lawnmowers.

Another candidate bought data to find voters who purchased recycled toilet paper, Catholics who read inspirational books, and retirees who visit casinos or take cruise vacations, according to Politico.

"There's almost nothing that they won't know about you — especially if you use credit or debit cards most of the time," Pam Dixon, founder of the World Privacy Forum, told Politico.

Privacy activists argue that voters are unaware that political campaigns gather such detailed personal information, and say most would be deeply concerned that their personal information was being collected and used for political purposes.

But political micro-targeting is unregulated. One expert, Ira Rubinstein, a senior fellow at New York University School of Law, said in a recent report that political campaigns have "the largest unregulated assemblage of personal data in contemporary American life."

He said he doubted anything would be done to curtail it unless there was a political scandal, Politico reports.

A 2012 poll found that 86 percent of respondents did not want political campaigns to tailor advertising to them, and when told that campaigns were already doing so, they said by large majorities that they would be disinclined to vote for those politicians.

The poll's author, Joseph Turow, said political campaigns and consultants remain unconcerned.

"In an almost arrogant way, there's a sense they're bulletproof" to voters privacy concerns, he said, according to Politico. "They feel they have the First Amendment on their side."

Politico said that the 2014 midterm election cycle marked a new peak in micro-targeting operations "when even blatant privacy intrusions became a normal part of plotting a campaign."

A range of political organizations collected data from Facebook on birthdays at favorite restaurants, while campaigns also targeted people through their Pandora preferences, using them for political advertising and fundraising purposes.

"If you want independent women over the age of 50 who live in a certain county and have made donations to animal-rights organizations and write left-handed, we can get those people," Steven Moore, managing director at the digital firm CampaignGrid, told a conference earlier this year, according to Politico.

Campaigns say they protect voters' most sensitive personal data, but privacy activists say there should be stricter regulations on how campaigns use personal information as well as greater transparency and disclosure.

© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


Politics
Political candidates and politicians are using highly sophisticated and detailed levels of data about voters, triggering concerns among privacy-rights activists. According to Politico, politicians on both sides of the aisle routinely purchase . . .
data, micro-targeting, voters, campaigns
571
2014-46-29
Monday, 29 December 2014 12:46 PM
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