Political microtargeting Dr Isabel Kusche Data Controversies 2019
From James Stewart on March 16th, 2019
The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal has introduced a larger public to the possibilities of targeted political advertising online. Political microtargeting uses available data on geographic, demographic, behavioural or psychological characteristics of subgroups or individuals to decide about the best addressees and most effective content of campaign communication. For example, Cambridge Analytica claimed that it was able to map psychological models to data from Facebook and increase the effectiveness of adverts by adjusting content and presentation to the psychological make-up of individuals. Such claims are likely exaggerated. Nevertheless, micortargeting has the potential to endanger or undermine electoral democracy. I will discuss possible effects of microtargeting on the relationship between politicians and voters, focusing on two aspects. First, I will explore the type of surveillance that the use of big data for political targeting implies. Second, I will address the non-public character of microtargeted campaign communications and its possible long-term consequences for our understanding of what democracy is about. Legal regulation is key to limiting the effects of both aspects.