Marketplace: How much do political campaigns know about you? Way more than you might think. 

December 20, 2023

“What we’re seeing now is that there are companies out there selling access to much more data to campaigns and political action committees,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald, deputy director at EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Those companies are either purchasing this data from data brokers or sometimes they gather location data themselves. And that’s in order to kind of build a profile on each voter. … These dossiers can include hundreds or even thousands of data points about us, including our religious beliefs … or even inferences about us based on what our friends are reading or where they’re going.”  

Fitzgerald said those dossiers help campaigns know who to target with ads and where to place those messages.  

“They can identify individual voters and say, you know, close to Election Day, make sure that that voter gets targeted with an ad to go vote or an ad slamming their opponent,” she said. “That means that a lot of the advertising you’re going to see in this next election cycle is going to be targeted towards the groups that you belong to, the place that you live and potentially even you yourself as an individual.” 

… “It is microtargeted,” said EPIC’s Fitzgerald. “It’s no longer the case that it’s just like every voter in Missouri is seeing the same ad. You are being chosen for that ad based on all the data about you. And your friends aren’t seeing the same information. So any conversations you’re having about politics, you’re not always getting the same information.”

Listen here

Support Our Work

EPIC's work is funded by the support of individuals like you, who allow us to continue to protect privacy, open government, and democratic values in the information age.