“In Marsa’s interview for Discover magazine (2013), Harper Reed was presented with the question,
The campaign microtargeted voters by firing off emails or posting messages on Facebook that were shaped to appeal to their particular interests or causes using tracking software, similar to ones used by online retailers to craft ads. Is that how you were able to tailor political messaging to such a degree? (p. 28)
Reed claimed that the key to their team’s success was listening. Searching through trending topics allowed them to monitor what people were doing and opened up the doors for them to create messages for different subtypes of people (Marsa, 2013, p. 28). The question arising from this is whether or not this is a government overreach. The fourth amendment gives protection against unreasonable search and seizure. According to Reed, the Fourth Amendment allows the data-mining that his team engaged in. In the Discover interview with Marsa (2013), he makes the point that “when you use Facebook or Amazon, you agree to their terms of service and their data usage. And as a consumer, you can always not use it. It’s the same with the campaign. We used publicly available data…” (p.28).To an extent, Reed’s point is true. When a person agrees to a social platform’s terms and data usage, they may be allowing the government access to whatever they choose to publicize. Anyone is capable of seeing an internet post. However, the Center of Digital Democracy’s executive Jeffrey Chester challenges Reed’s stance. “Social Media and Politics” (2012) is an article in CQ Researcher that includes an interview with Chester conducted by Tom Price. Chester suggested that the Obama’s technology team was made powerful through invading citizen’s privacy. He raised the question, “Do we really want giant political parties and well-funded special interest groups like the Super PACs compiling millions of dossiers on voters and becoming a series of private National Security Agencies or FBIs” (p.870). These groups supply campaigners with a significant amount of information on eligible voters, and this adds to the amount of microtargeting in campaigning. The data collected provides an almost unlimited array of demographic information (Price, 2012, 870).
Reed acknowledges that the technology was used to gather as much data as they could to ensure that the message was being delivered to the right person. When the message was read the recipient was asked to share the message with their friends. Even if it was shared, the team combed through the already targeted peoples friend’s list to find other possible recipients. Also, the team posted public messages and looked to see which one received the most attention. This helped them to determine which messages were useful, and which were not (Marsa, 2013, p.29). It’s believed by Chester that there is not sufficient enough disclaimers informing the electorate on what information is being released when online. For this purpose, Chester recommends reform. It’s his idea that the federal government “adopt new rules enabling voters to decide how their data is collected and used” (Price, 2012, 881). Chester’s suggestion is a compromise, it generates transparency between the government and the people. The government can continue innovating campaign methods while the people are aware and in charge over what information is released.
MARSA, L. (2013). HARPER REED: Game Changer. Discover, 34(8), 26-29.
President Obama Campaigns In Florida For Two-Day Swing [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www4.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Barack
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Price, T. (2012, October 12). Social media and politics. CQ Researcher, 22, 865-888. Retrieved