Written by Sasha Ockenden, Communications Coordinator, Tactical Tech
Political campaigns market candidates to us, just like companies market products to us: by tapping into our personal data. That might not come as a surprise – but how much do you know about what data is collected and the ways it is used?
Campaigns compile basic information on voters such as their age, voting record and location – and not only in the run-up to elections. However, increasingly this also includes more personal information: our search history, the emails we open, the locations we visit. This personal data can be used to create individual profiles, with an overview of our hobbies, values, interests, emotions, and political leanings.
The more campaigns know about us on an emotional level – are we currently excited, angry or fearful? – the better they can tailor their communications through ‘micro-targeting’. Micro-targeting allows for personalised political advertising, whether online, via telephone or TV, or even physical mail. In other words, the political leaflets you get through your door could be totally different from what your next-door neighbour sees, without you knowing why they are different, or indeed knowing at all.
To achieve this, political campaigns work closely with private companies around the world, forming a complex network that we at Tactical Tech call the ‘influence industry’. These companies use a range of cutting-edge technologies, from A/B testing to geotargeting to psychometric profiling. Tactical Tech has spent years researching the global influence industry, and you can read the results in more detail in our report ‘Personal Data: Political Persuasion: Inside the Influence Industry’.
We now know that our personal data has become a political asset, a means for political intelligence, and an instrument for political influence. Tactical Tech’s Data & Politics project has produced this short animation, ‘Your Data, Our Democracy’, which asks the question: What does the use of your data mean for our democracy?
About Tactical Tech
Tactical Tech is an international NGO based in Berlin that engages with citizens and civil-society organisations to explore and mitigate the impacts of technology on society. You can find us on Twitter.