Influencing Vote Banks with Big Data
Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, exposed a major data breach from Facebook. By gaining access to private data from the Facebook servers, Cambridge Analytica has been aiding various political organizations through the means of ‘behavioral microtargeting’. Data analytics companies are using personal data of users from social media platforms to generate ‘dark advertisements’ to influence the emotional biases of different demographic groups. ‘Dark advertisements’ are personalized advertisements that are not posted in any public space. Using these, politicians can display one kind of campaign to one ethnicity while displaying the stark opposite to another. Under the pretense of obtaining data for academic purposes, Cambridge used data models to create personality profiles of all adults. This allowed them to target voters based on psychological weaknesses. This kind of campaigning undermines the very fabric of our democracy.
While this case is not the best example of the uses of data analytics in political campaigns, it paints a clear picture for the future of the industry. Data Analytics can be leveraged in a way that actually helps the citizens. The successful use of data analytics in a legal manner was displayed by Barack Obama, during his 2012 campaign. By conducting door to door surveys, they discerned valuable information regarding the needs of citizens in a specific demographic and designed his manifesto accordingly. Governments must put in place stringent regulations to monitor online digital campaigning and ensure that they do not violate the free and fair electoral system.