It’s not secret political campaigns wanting your private information, but what do they actually know about you? How do you get it? And is there anything you can do to stop them?
To find out where campaigns get their data from, I reached out to CBS Senior Manager for Elections, Kabir Khan. So let’s break down Kabir into what data modern political campaigns are using and where it comes from. So you have three data streams. One comes from voter files collected by state governments, regardless of whether you vote publicly or not. State governments compile lists of all registered voters in their country, along with basic information about them, their age and gender. When did you register? Many states will also list their party affiliations. Many states also have data on race and ethnicity. So these voter files are really the bread and butter of political campaigns and have been for decades. The second data source comes from commercial providers or third parties. So these are companies that basically collect different data about voters, often from consumer databases. And that may include things like their home ownership status, or even what magazines they subscribe to, or what type of car they drive more and more. This data is augmented with people̵
7;s social media. So maybe their Twitter handles or their Facebook profiles and then the third one. Data source that is really important for campaigns is data that they collect themselves. Every time they send an email or knock on someone else’s door or call a voter, it’s not just them. They’re sending their messages and maybe trying to get someone to vote. They also collect data on who is receptive to them, who is already planning to vote for them, who may be undecided but could be persuaded to vote for them. Maybe the campaign has an app. So these are the three most important data streams that campaigns use, if you will. So collecting and analyzing voter information is not just common. There are big economic data companies like Morgenkonsole lt Politisch and others have been advising political campaigns for a long time. When I met Paul Wescott from Lt. Political caught up with, he guided me through the voter visualization interactive map. So go through how voter mapping works. This is a voter visualization tool that will allow you to see all of the voters in the state of Florida in this case. If you zoom down here, we’re going to the Miami Beach area. To show you how detailed it can get, you can actually get down to the household level, toggle it and actually see down to the individual household and those people, where people are, where they live, and of course a whole wealth of information about them People. One way a campaign could traditionally use this, as you will well say, is that I really only want to reach people in a very specific area so they can highlight even a small block area. From there you could say, okay, I just want people and we’re just going to use party affiliation in this case. And we will say we have mostly Democrats in this neighborhood. But let’s say I just want the bipartisan and Republicans that you choose. And just to show you how to get hyper-targeted very quickly to find these people. So if you are a Republican or a non-partisan candidate, this shows you how to actually find these people in this targeted way. From there you can go down and select and find people with cellphones, find people based on their income and education level. All of this different demographic information. Okay, the information political campaigns or almost anyone can buy about you is pretty extensive. It’s almost terrifying. And it’s important to note that most of this data comes from publicly available sources. It just represents the basic digital footprint that you leave when you live in the US voting. For the Trump and Biden campaigns, however, collecting this public data is only part of the puzzle. The information both campaigns collect from willing supporters. Much more valuable. We are now in an area where campaigns use all this personal technology, all this personal insight about a voter to activate and activate to increase the intensity. However, you can use this mobile number to unlock it. A tremendous amount of information about actual voting or buying behavior as opposed to what a voter would want. So it’s safe to say that the campaign contains a lot of your personal data and that you downloaded the campaign apps. You probably have more. Both the Trump and Biden apps requested, at a minimum, access to your contacts and phone number. So is there any reason to worry that our political data profiles will be preserved over the long term? It’s not a perfectly accurate picture where they know everything about you and what you are going to do before you do. This is not the world we are in right now. Often times what they have is a rough estimate, details about you, your background, your political beliefs, and what to do in the next election, but it’s by no means perfect. So I wouldn’t freak out too much about the data campaigns. What do you think? Are you getting your personal data in the hands of political campaigning? Or is that just the new normal? Let us know what you think in the comments below and subscribe to CNET’s YouTube channel to learn more about technology and politics.