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US Presidential candidates data mine voters with cookies

The US presidential campaign is turning to somewhat questionable methods to help the candidates get more votes. President Obama and Governor Romney have both armed themselves with a large amount of personal information on their voters, which they hope will help them win the big one.

US Presidential elections are well known for dirty tactics; digging up scandals on the other candidate, running political ads slandering opponents and plain old lying are quite common practice, but this time around presidential candidates Obama and Romney are arming themselves with a new weapon. They have been acquiring large amounts of personal information on their voters, partially by planting internet cookies and seeing what websites they have been visiting and what their internet habits are.

US Presidential candidates Obama (left) and Romney (right)


Information such as the whether the voter visits pornographic or religious websites, their sexuality, whether they have foreclosed homes, their taste in beer and their vacation habits are all things that the campaigns have gathered and believe will help them win the election. First, this information will help them determine, based on those and many other factors, who will vote for what candidate. Armed with this knowledge, callers will then reach out to potential voters and give them subtle hints to help them get to the polls.

Just asking the voter about their previous voting habits will actually influence them to get to the polls, studies have shown. “You don’t want your analytical efforts to be obvious because voters get creeped out,” said a Romney campaign worker, “A lot of what we’re doing is behind the scenes.” Indeed, most of the information the campaigns have gathered won't be revealed to the voter, but certain elements, such as how often they've gone to vote in the past, may find it's way to their Facebook page. Apparently, calling out someone on not voting, in essence public shaming, is a very good incentive to vote.

Both campaigns obviously deny they're being overly intrusive and careless with people's privacy: “We are committed to protecting individual privacy at every turn […] going above and beyond what’s required by law,” said Adam Fetcher for the Obama campaign. Ryan Williams, of the Romney campaign, said: “The Romney campaign respects the privacy rights of all Americans. We are committed to ensuring that all of our voter outreach is governed by the highest ethical standards.”

David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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