The Need for Increased Transparency and Public Scrutiny in the World of Congressional Campaign Voter Data Collection
164 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 2013
While increasing public attention is being directed toward the use of data in the 2012 presidential campaign, particularly by Obama for America, congressional candidates’ use of data has largely avoided any type of public scrutiny. This lack of scrutiny is perhaps a symptom of both a media environment predominantly focused on presidential politics and a widely held belief that congressional campaigns lack the technology-savvy found at the presidential level. Whatever the cause, the research underpinning this thesis demonstrates that, while it would still likely be misguided to compare congressional campaigns’ data practices to those of Obama for America, the vast majority of congressional candidates opaquely used their official campaign websites to collect information about voters. This thesis argues for improved disclosure of political campaigns’ data practices with the intention of increasing public scrutiny.
The analysis in this thesis focuses on the essential first step of the data-driven campaigning process: data collection. While the growing trove of literature on data-informed targeting processes, both from academia and the popular press, largely focuses on data’s role in providing campaigns with the ability to “microtarget” optimized messages to a small portion of the electorate, this thesis seeks to provide more clarity on the near-constant collection of voters’ personal data and explore the numerous implications of that essential first step in the process.
Keywords: big data, microtargeted advertising, data collection, transparency, social media, technology
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