Alrightee Internet… It’s me again.. We need to talk. This one is important so listen up and make sure you pass it along.
Data companies have used the data YOU gave them to help Trump win the USA election.
What you say? Me? … You know all those silly quizzes your tech friends and I warned you about before? You know.. What personality type are you? Which of your Facebook friends is your secret crush? Which sex in the city character are you most like? Remember those?
Yeah you do. You likely have done a bunch of these quizzes and synced them up with your Facebook profile. I and those other well meaning friends, warned you, told you not to do this and to make sure you delete them ASAP and remove the permissions. You sheeply replied back that “It wasn’t hurting anything, stop ruining my fun”…. And you forgot about it.
Well…. Have I got some Spiffy News For You.
You have authorized countless companies to create databases of your personal information to track, share, target and influence you and that helped Trump win the Election.
Let us investigate shall we…?
Facebook Advertising Based Off Your Personality Profile
Brad Parscale, a San Antonio marketing entrepreneur, was head of Trumps digital media strategy. Parscale is one of the few within Trump’s crew entrusted to tweet on his behalf. He had no previous history in politics, but he had built the webpages for Trump family’s business and charities. Parscale created something the Trump team called Project Alamo – a database and online digital strategy around Trump supporters and American voters. They took voluntary subscribers and data supplied by the Republic National Convention to create a massive database of users.
That’s where your quizzes come in.
Cambridge Analytica a data analytics firm in the UK, was the next huge part behind Trumps advertising strategies in the final months of the USA election. CA also worked on the “Leave” side of the Brexit campaign by the way. Oh and Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News Network and Trump’s future Chief Strategist? He sits on the board of Cambridge Analytica. This company is made up of Phd’s who are familiar with large data sets like astrophysics or theoretical solid state physics. They take some of those wonderful quizzes data results, specifically one called “My Personality App”, make up a personality profile of exactly who you are, what you like and what you might care about. They can determine if you are efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless or friendly/compassionate vs. analytical/detached for example. Over 7 million people on Facebook took this quiz, Because so many synced it up with their Facebook (so you could shared that “I am most like an Apple of all the fruits” result with your Facebook friends!!) that gave CA permission to have all your personal information. CA now knows your name, age, work information, location, has a picture of you and knows all your friends too. Then it scrolls through your facebook history, posts and likes, coming up with an even more detailed statistical digital footprint about what kind of person you are.
CA can then combine that with their other pieces of data, available in the public freedom of information databases like voting history, criminal records and so on. If you went to a Trump rally they can match your phone number or email to the rest of your account information they already have and even include a credit card number, and know if you donated to Trump’s campaign. That’s one seriously detailed database. All it needed was a little bit of coding skill and your permission. Trump knew all about his supporters. He spent a lot of time on his planes listening to Parscale and his digital support team. This digital information shaped his speeches, travel locations and much more. This is “Big Data” folks. You might have heard that term thrown around as something in the spooky big brother future, but it is a very real today thing.
What does all this mean? Quite simply Cambridge Analytica can and likely has used all that lovely personal profile information to “psy ops” you – or target you with very specific news stories or propaganda that will affect you and sway your vote, hitting you subconsciously where it will affect you most. Yes. Really.
For example, in Florida, the company targeted Hispanic voters who were concerned by national security with advertisements that presented Trump as a strong commander-in-chief. In Arizona, the company targeted certain Hispanics with messages about Trump’s immigration policy which avoid reference to his promise to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. But that is just basic marketing… It doesn’t stop there.
Negative Words To Sway Voters To Stay Home
Trumps team spent $70 million a month on Facebook advertising. Most of it was spent targeting a universe of millions of passionate Trump supporters, but weeks before the election we are all so familiar with, Trumps team also started using this information to make people stay home and NOT go out and vote. Fancy stars singing musical numbers to “get out and vote”? No… they had a different tactic. Instead Trump’s team did things like create a South Park-style animation of Clinton saying the “super predator” line, as damaging cartoon text danced around her. The animation was delivered to certain African American voters..But not all of them. Only certain ones. In certain key locations. Like Florida.
They also targeted young women in certain swing states with negative message about the alleged sexual assaults by Bill Clinton and messages about how Hillary harassed or threatened them. Bernie supporters were targeted with ads discussing Wiki Leak emails about DNC corruption and about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They even targeted an area in Miami called “Little Haiti” with negative messages about Clinton Foundation and it’s actions in Haiti. Trump fully believed in marketing there. Some in the media mocked him when he talked about his visit to “Little Haiti” in his Presidential debate speech. The overall campaign’s aim was to depress Clinton’s total vote.
“We know because we’ve modeled this,” says one official from Trump’s digital team. “It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these people out.”
Although Clinton won the popular vote overall numbers were down for her, and many were down in these swing state that were targeted. Did this tactic play a part in it? Is this actually legal is also another question worth pondering. This detailed article from Bloomberg paints a really interesting picture for those looking for a more detailed read in all this. Let’s move on to Facebook and Advertising.
What Can Facebook Target?
Companies do not have the ability to actually target YOU specifically on Facebook. Personally identifiable information (like your email or user id) is left off of advertising platforms like Facebook Ads or Google Adwords. They CAN do some pretty specific targeting in groups though. Anyone can, even you. So the data scientists come up with patterns from their specific custom Project Alamo database and determine that there are voters in a small part of Miami who might be able to be swayed in their vote. Let’s say a message to only 25-40 year old African Americans males who support Clinton and gun rights and live in “Little Haiti” . Don’t think this is possible? Check it out my Internet People!
The above screenshot is taken today from the Facebook advertising page. As you can see on the right side there, I can target zip codes of “Little Haiti”, 25- 40 African American males, who like Clinton and gun rights or the 2nd amendment. No one else would see the post, except the very specific few that Trump’s team has determined with their Big Data profiles, could potentially be impacted by the campaign. But once again… it doesn’t stop there.
Not All Advertising Is the Same
Facebook and Google may not allow specific people to be targeted but Dish and DIRECTV permits TV ads to be assigned differently to specific subscribers, allowing Cambridge Analytica to fully exploit the benefit of its individual-level modeling if they have your address. They can seriously target in a message that will speak to you. For example one ad would be created for voters who are modeled to be agreeable. It would show upbeat music, and a happy politician standing outdoors on a bright sunny day saying we need to “leave a stronger, safer America for our children.” In another, aimed at a neurotic, not trusting personality type voter, the politician was invisible—replaced by storm clouds, foreigners burning American flags, and an booming voice from a deep voiced narrator to “vote like your life depends on it”. That is targeted marketing. It will speak to you, because its been tested to speak to you. You are extremely likely to share, interact, spread the word and most of all support something with marketing of this type. Worse yet – you don’t even realize that your friends may very well be seeing something completely different.
What Facebook Thinks Of You
Want to see what Facebook thinks of you? They likely even know who you voted for without you ever even telling them…. Wanna see? Log into your Facebook account and check it out here – https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/?entry_product=ad_settings_screen
All of these pieces of information that Facebook has gathered from your likes, apps and what you click on appear right here. Be sure to check out “Lifestyle and Culture” under the more tab. Facebook knows things like I frequently travel, am away from friends and family, use 4g, android and am a business owner. Any person or business can target me if they were selling something that matches one of these profiles. You probably should take a few moments to edit some of these, or just have a look and see how eerily well Facebook might know you. I’ll wait.
Clinton spent more than $140 million on television spots, many with flashy movie stars and personalities. Many received serious backlash. I heard ZERO about how Trump was doing this “psy op” social media marketing in this manner. Did you? I hope you can see how this is some serious business and each action you personally take on a social network can and will be used to target more and more things to you as we move along into the future. Don’t even get me started on how Amazon and Ebay track your purchases and browsing to show you ads and categorize you as a certain type of buyer, but that is a topic for a different article.
STOP DOING THOSE QUIZZES
So let us recap… By finding out your personality profile from that innocent Facebook quiz – you have potentially opened up yourself to seriously specific “psy ops” marketing that is targeted to make you feel specific things. That echo chamber everyone is talking about? Forget the fake news sites – You told these companies it is OK to do this to you because you wanted to find out which fruit you are most like. SO STOP DOING THOSE QUIZZES.
Of course not all quizzes are tracking your political sway vote willingness, many of them are just selling all this information that you gave them off to the highest bidder to do similar things with. So stop giving away this information for companies to exploit. Go edit and delete any companies you don’t know or recognize right now on Facebook by clicking here. And stop doing quizzes. Don’t let your friends do this kinda stuff either. Let them know the dangers of giving away their information. Send them this post and let them know how their information is being used. That’s something worth sharing.