The Democratic National Committee met in Minneapolis this week. Among the items on the agenda was a strategy to transform the party’s voter databases into something they can use to target online ads. Republicans are doing something similar, all in an effort to catch voters who spend more time than ever online.
For political campaigns, television ads and robocalls just aren’t enough anymore.
“You’d want to reach people on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter, or wherever they are talking to each other about political or other speech,” says Nuala O’Connor of the Center for Democracy & Technology. She’s worried about merging voter details with the consumer data used to target online ads.
“Anything that can tell you a slice about your identity as a person, a sophisticated data manipulator can use to make inferences about your identity as a voter or a citizen,” he says.
But Jay Friedman of Goodway Group, which helps deliver online ads, points out those inferences don’t necessarily translate to identification. Friedman says the data becomes anonymous as it’s combined.
“[The parties] know up front their universe of who they can target,” he says, “and they know on the back end that they might have hit 10,112 people, but they can’t match those two.”
Although they probably wish they could.
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