Swaying Voters via Internet Clicks

The New York Times ran a story a couple days ago on how campaigns have started identifying potential voters for online campaign ads based on what they click while Internet surfing. The practice is called data mining. It is a tried and true retail sales schema used for targeted marketing.

A campaign pays companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon for data they collect about subjects of political interest to them. At their behest, the moment a potentially sympathetic voter clicks on one of them, then ads for their candidate instantly start showing up on that voter’s screens.

You see… Google, Facebook and Amazon also get paid by political entities to market their candidate! They make money two ways:

  1. Collect personal data online they sell to political organizations
  2. Place ads on the screens of targeted voters

Just 11 days ago I wrote an article about my personal experiences with that practice using three examples. One of the examples was for a political ad. It is similar to the NYT experience.

The New York Times story is here:
Tracking Voters’ Clicks Online to Try to Sway Them
– Natasha Singer and Charles Duhigg, New York Times, 10/27/2012

My personal experience is described here:
Invasions of Privacy
– Azleader, Inform the Pundits!, 10/18/2012

Personal Privacy

In my mind, the real issue is invasion of privacy. Nothing more. Nothing less.

On the one hand, targeted retail marketing has its value. I had been researching purchase of an SSD hard drive for my computer.

Ads suddenly started popping up on screens all over the place for similar drives from other manufacturers in the same price range.

I used that information to confirm my selection was correct. I found it useful, if reprehensible.

On the other hand, can targeted marketing work the same way for political ads? This writer thinks not. If voters aren’t aware of a presidential candidate’s views on abortion by now a targeted ad won’t sway them or entice them to vote. In that case, it is more like preaching to the choir than anything else. No one’s mind will be changed.

Bottom line is that online entities are still collecting and storing personalized information about us without our knowledge or consent.


In the NYT story college student Thomas Goddard, an Obama supporter, is annoyed by Romney campaign ads that started showing up after he researched Romney’s position on abortion online.

The same thing happens to voters researching President Obama’s positions, too. I know, it happens to me all the time. I react exactly the same as Goddard.

In my earlier article I talked about SSD hard drive ads I was researching and ads for a fancy hotel called the Biltmore I’d looked up just once on a whim.

Since then I made an online SSD purchase and it was delivered a week ago. I haven’t returned to the Biltmore for any reason. Yet, I still see 10s of ads for both every day. I even see ads from the same company I purchased my SSD drive from and they are advertising more SSDs!!

Obviously, online targeted marketing has a long way to go to work out the kinks.

Does targeted marketing of political ads work? Who knows? This is the first election it has been tried.

What is known is that political entities are collecting and storing personal information about you without your knowledge and consent. They use it as they see fit. The tools are in place for government to track and control your behavior. It is only a baby step away.

As Americans, we should all be concerned about that.


About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Oct 29, 2012, in 2012 Elections, culture, economics, Freedom of Speech, Invasion of Privacy, Life, news, Opinion, Politics, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. If you delete all your browsing history and kill all cookies, does this invasion of privacy go away, or has the data they mined taken your internet id and computer chip number? Where I work some federal program PCs get special INTEL chips without some kind of indentifiers.

    • Sadly, any data mined by political organizations and retailers is out of your control. Clearing cookies just erases your current browsing stored locally on your computer.

      What they’ve collected already is out there permanently. 😦

      • Looks like our only option then is to change our email accounts, logon ids, passwords, and create whole new persons for ourselves every once in a while, so they think the old croaked.

      • You are right, there are few options to protect yourself against invasion unless you are not yourself at all online… and that is not possible.

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