Everywhere you went, virtually or physically, the Obama and Romney campaigns followed you. Did you start noticing Romney ads popping up in your browser, even if you just went to his website briefly and had no intention of voting for him? That was because of browser tools the candidates used or built to harvest data.
Campaigns and political strategy firms paid good money for your web usage data, filtered it through their predictions for associating your browser history with your political affiliation — NPR junkie? You lefty, you — filtered it again through publicly-available elections data and slipped in a candidate’s plea for $5. Time reports that Obama’s homebrewed datamining dives — given sublimely geeky nicknames like Narwhal and Dreamcatcher — helped the campaign determine such minutiae as which celebrities made the most compelling pitchmasters to demographics as specific as deep-pocketed West Coast women aged 40 to 49.
Ironically, Obama’s techniques drew on those George W. Bush used to win re-election in 2004, which themselves drew on the synthesis of piles of consumer data. Team Romney designed a vote-tracking data hunt called Project Orca to track “the hour-by-hour whims of the electorate,” according to the Washington Examiner, but it apparently crashed in the final hours of the race: “Somebody said Orca is lying on the beach with a harpoon in it,” an aide said.
More at Wired.com
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