The World Of Campaign Tech: Cellphone And TV Tracking In Politics

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Lena Gjokaj takes a cell phone photo of stage for the presidential debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (Julio Cortez/AP)
Lena Gjokaj takes a cell phone photo of stage for the presidential debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (Julio Cortez/AP)

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Political campaigns are using your phone and TV to gather data and send you targeted messages. We look at the rise of campaign tech.

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Evan Halper, staff writer covering politics for the Los Angeles Times. (@evanhalper)

Stephanie Hankey, co-founder and executive director of the Berlin-based Tactical Technology Collective. (@Info_Activism)

Shane Greer, co-owner and co-publisher of the trade journal Campaigns & Elections. (@shanegreer)

From The Reading List

Want to opt out of big data broker sites? Here's how you can do it:

Motherboard: "Here’s a Long List of Data Broker Sites and How to Opt-Out of Them" — "Getting off of data broker sites is time-consuming, so load up on snacks, queue up your favorite playlist, and roll up your sleeves. If you have limited time, start with the high-priority sites on this list.

"It’s often quicker to group sites by the information required, starting with the ones requiring the most work (such as sending physical letters or faxes, or making phone calls), hitting all the sites requiring drivers licenses (feel free to cross out your ID Number!), and finishing off with the easy ones that can be done online.

"Some paid services remove data from some sites. For example, Abine’s DeleteMe service removes data from an individual for $129/year. However, not every data broker is in their opt-out list. Whether you sign up for DeleteMe or another service, make sure to opt out of the sites not included in their opt-out list. Many (such as MyLife and WhitePages) do not allow people to opt out on behalf of others."

Los Angeles Times: "Your phone and TV are tracking you, and political campaigns are listening in" — "It was a crowded primary field and Tony Evers, running for governor, was eager to win the support of officials gathered at a Wisconsin state Democratic Party meeting, so the candidate did all the usual things: He read the room, he shook hands, he networked.

"Then he put an electronic fence around everyone there.

"The digital fence enabled Evers’ team to push ads onto the iPhones and Androids of all those attending the meeting. Not only that, but because the technology pulled the unique identification numbers off the phones, a data broker could also use the digital signatures to follow the devices home. Once there, the campaign could use so-called cross-device tracking technology to find associated laptops, desktops and other devices to push even more ads.

"Welcome to the new frontier of campaign tech — a loosely regulated world in which simply downloading a weather app or game, connecting to Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or powering up a home router can allow a data broker to monitor your movements with ease, then compile the location information and sell it to a political candidate who can use it to surround you with messages."

Politico: "‘Sustained and ongoing’ disinformation assault targets Dem presidential candidates" — "A wide-ranging disinformation campaign aimed at Democratic 2020 candidates is already underway on social media, with signs that foreign state actors are driving at least some of the activity.

"The main targets appear to be Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), four of the most prominent announced or prospective candidates for president.

"A POLITICO review of recent data extracted from Twitter and from other platforms, as well as interviews with data scientists and digital campaign strategists, suggests that the goal of the coordinated barrage appears to be undermining the nascent candidacies through the dissemination of memes, hashtags, misinformation and distortions of their positions. But the divisive nature of many of the posts also hints at a broader effort to sow discord and chaos within the Democratic presidential primary."

New York Times: "‘Weaponized Ad Technology’: Facebook’s Moneymaker Gets a Critical Eye" — "Facebook has made a mint by enabling advertisers to identify and reach the very people most likely to react to their messages. Ad buyers can select audiences based on details like a user’s location, political leanings and interests as specific as the Museum of the Confederacy or online gambling. And they can aim their ads at as few as 20 of the 1.5 billion daily users of the social network.

"Brands love it. So do political campaigns, like those for President Trump and former President Barack Obama, which tailored their messages to narrow subsets of voters.

"But microtargeting, as the technique is called, is coming under increased scrutiny in the United States and Europe. Some government officials, researchers and advertising executives warn that it can be exploited to polarize and manipulate voters. And they are calling for restrictions on its use in politics, even after Facebook, in response to criticism, recently limited some of the targeting categories available to advertisers."

Stefano Kotsonis produced this hour for broadcast.

This program aired on February 25, 2019.



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