Microtargeting potential voters in a political campaign

I’m reading fascinating – and scary – stories about how political campaigns today use microtargeting to send prospective voters exactly the right information and advertisements to sway them. For instance, a Slate article from back in February about “Narwhal”, the Democrats’ data integration project, writes about how the Obama campaign could send a voter in a conservative state a strong message about the importance of subsidised contraceptives because they could see from data collected about her that she would be very likely to support that.

This is the big shift in the use of technology in campaigns today – both in marketing and in politics. The Slate article summarises it thus:

From a technological perspective, the 2012 campaign will look to many voters much the same as 2008 did. There will not be a major innovation that seems to herald a new era in electioneering, like 1996’s debut of candidate Web pages or their use in fundraising four years later; like online organizing for campaign events in 2004 or the subsequent emergence of social media as a mass-communication tool in 2008. This year’s looming innovations in campaign mechanics will be imperceptible to the electorate, and the engineers at Obama’s Chicago headquarters racing to complete Narwhal in time for the fall election season may be at work at one of the most important. If successful, Narwhal would fuse the multiple identities of the engaged citizen—the online activist, the offline voter, the donor, the volunteer—into a single, unified political profile.

An article in The Atlantic spells out the potential creepiness even more: The Creepiness Factor: How Obama and Romney are Getting to Know You.

10. October 2012 by Jill
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