Social Media is a major source of information for election campaigners wanting to target potential voters.
‘Microtargeting’ voters with campaign messages using information on their religious and other affiliations, buying habits, education level, subscriptions, and demographics, is nothing new. The 2004 Bush campaign sorted voters into 30 categories according to their lifestyles, affinities, interests and ideologies and developed different campaign messages to suit each category.
The US Democrats also have a national database of 240 million people of voting age, with information on each person based on public data such as voting records and the census as well as commercial data such as “household attributes, purchasing and investment profiles, donation behavior, occupational information, recreational interests, and engagement with civic and community groups.”
During the Obama election campaign in 2012 all this data was used to predict who was likely to vote for Obama and who could be persuaded to. “These models sorted individuals into categories—let’s say, mothers concerned about gun violence or millennials with significant college debt—and these categories were used to tailor communications to members of each group.”
They did so by gathering millions of data points on the electorate from public sources, commercial information brokers, and their own surveys, then polling voters with great frequency and looking for patterns in the responses. All this was used to create predictive models of who was likely to vote for Obama, who was not, and who was open to persuasion. It also indicated who would be disinclined to vote for Obama if contacted by the campaign. These models sorted individuals into categories—let’s say, mothers concerned about gun violence or millennials with significant college debt—and these categories were used to tailor communications to members of each group. Kreiss
The Trump campaign augmented Cambridge Analytica data with “the RNC’s [Republican National Committee’s] enhanced Voter Vault, which claims to have more than 300 terabytes of data, including 7,700,545,385 microtargeting data points on nearly 200 million voters; and its own custom-designed one, called Project Alamo, culled in part from the millions of small donors to the campaign and e-mail addresses gathered at rallies, from sales of campaign merchandise, and even from text messages sent to the campaign. Eventually, Project Alamo also came to include data from the other two databases.”
Palantir is a data-mining firm which does contract work for governments around the world, including the NSA (the US National Security Agency) and GCHQ ( Britain’s intelligence and security service). “It’s owned by Peter Thiel (pictured with Trump), the billionaire co-founder of PayPal and major investor in Facebook, who became Silicon Valley’s first vocal supporter of Trump.”
© 2017 Sharon Beder