Data mining can be used for many things, and this year, not surprisingly, it’s being used to target undecided voters.
This article talks about the first hand experience of someone who’s experienced this — “Every time Nella Stevens logs on to her computer, ads for President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney follow her from site to site, dogging her every digital step as if begging for her vote”
Candidates are very concerned with attracting voters, especially those who are undecided. Using the same techniques as customer profilers, data miners are creating profiles of voters based on their searches so that they can micro-target them in an attempt to sway their vote towards a particular candidate. As more people are spending time online, it becomes easier to target people through ads, especially since profiles can be built to further target ads. The amount spent on online election advertising this year is estimated to be 160 million — eight times the amount that was spent in the 2008 election.
Privacy advocates are concerned politicians that use data mining in order to scrounge voters will be reluctant to press for more scrutiny and regulation of data brokers.
As someone who has always found consumer profiles and targeted ads to be unnerving, I find this method of campaigning to be equally unnerving — especially as an undecided voter, one of the people these techniques are most interested in targeting. However, the Ad Block plug-in for Google Chrome allows me to search freely without worrying that campaign ads will follow me, vying for my vote.