Time for Safeguards on “Micro” Targeting and Electoral Campaigns

The role which precision marketing plays in political campaigns, especially the use of largely stealth data collection and targeting technologies, requires serious debate and action. Voters—and the general public—have no clue that data about them is being collected, analyzed and profiled. Nor do they comprehend the disturbing range of segmentation techniques being designed as massive weapons of personalized persuasion.

Here is an example of what’s already being done to target voters—largely out of public view and consent. Political leaders—including the presidential candidates—have to come “clean” about the use of such techniques. We don’t believe any interactive marketing technologies should be applied without full disclosure and consent of the individual. Digital political marketing also requires policy safeguards.

Here’s an excerpt from a report that discusses the role of micro targeting in the recent election campaign of Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City. My bold.

“… we evaluated over 200 variables and segmented one of the most diverse cities in the world into seven separate and statistically distinct categories that were defined by primarily but not exclusively by psychographics – the motives behind voting behavior. Based on each of these segments we developed a range of potential messages and alternative executions. To develop the micro-targeting framework, we created a proprietary algorithm to predict how every individual voter in NYC would respond to different combinations of the potential messages and executions. The input to this model included:

· Demographics
· Psychographics
· Geography
· Voter history
· Lifestyle data
· Consumer data
· Responses to survey questions and alternative messages
Based on the predictions of the model we then identified the optimal
communications for each of the 4.2 million voters on file…
source: “Silent Marketing: Micro-targeting.” Tom Agan. Penn, Schoen, & Berland Associates. 2007

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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