Voters

News & Analysis

There is now an ecosystem that drives voter profiling and targeted messages, often known as micro-targeting, that accompany modern political campaigning globally. The targeted ad-supported internet is made up of thousands of companies that track and profile us all 24 hours a day- not just during election time.

In December 2018, Facebook provided an update on the civil rights audit it asked civil rights leader Laura Murphy to undertake in May. Based on advice Murphy culled from 90 civil society organisations, Facebook said it had expanded its policy prohibiting voter suppression, updated its policy to ban
Advocacy
Dear Chair and Committee colleagues, Privacy International is an international NGO, based in London, which works with partners around the world to challenge state and corporate surveillance and data exploitation. As part of our work, we have a dedicated programme “Defending Democracy and Dissent”
16 May 2019
Facebook has taken down 65 accounts, 161 pages, dozens of groups and four Instagram accounts, which were ran by Archimedes Group, an Israeli political consulting and lobbying firm that aimed at disrupting elections in various countries. Archimedes was mostly active in Sub-Saharan Africa but also
18 Jul 2012
Research from the Brennan Center shows minorities are primarily affected by new laws that restrict citizens access to voting through ID requirement, increased distance to polling station, inconvenient opening hours and hidden costs. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/18/voter-id-poor-black
30 Apr 2019
The New York Times picked 16 categories (like registered Democrats or people trying to lose weight) and targeted ads at people in them. They used the ads to reveal the invisible information itself, noting that it is a "story of how our information is used not just to target us but to manipulate
29 Sep 2017
In the lead up to the 2017 German federal election (Bundestagswahl), all political parties used social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and e-mails as platforms to reach voters. The far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) reportedly hired a Texas-based company for their
10 Aug 2017
In the lead up to the German elections, the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) created a mobile app, Connect 17, which was designed to create a feedback loop between party headquarters and door-to-door volunteers (also known as canvassers). The app drew on data from the federal statistics
02 Apr 2018
The Sunday edition of the national newspaper Bild reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) party and the centre-right Free Democrats (FDP) party purchased "more than a billion" pieces of personal data about potential voters from a subsidiary of Deutsche Post
20 Dec 2017
According to research conducted by Ronan Chardonneau, a French associate professor of digital marketing at Angers University, none of the websites of the eleven candidates' in the 2017 French presidential elections, that he looked into respected CNIL's directives regarding information that should be
20 Dec 2017
A company called Liegey Muller Pons (LMP) offers data analysis tools to help candidates and political parties improve their political campaign strategy. The three founders of the company were member's of former President François Hollande's 2012 campaign team. LMP was then hired by current President
20 Dec 2017
NationBuilder is an American political campaigning software company, which offers a fully integrated suite of tools for the organization of a campaign, and outreach through e-mail, telephone, social media, and traditional door-to-door campaigning. Many candidates in the 2017 French presidential
20 Dec 2017
During the primary elections in November 2016, the former French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, reportedly used an app, called Knockin, that made it possible to identify and geolocate supporters for door-to-door campaigning. Based on a report by the French Radio RMC, the app would harvest public data
20 Feb 2019
In February 2019, shortly after eight British Labour MPs quit the party and formed the "Independent Group", one of them was caught accessing data and campaigning tools belonging to their former party. In response, Labour shut down access to tools Contact Creator, used to collect campaign data and
19 Feb 2019
In February 2019, Twitter announced it would expand the political campaigning policy it launched in the US in May 2018 to all EU member states, Australia, and India, commencing March 11. Once the policy is live, only certified advertisers would be allowed to run political campaign ads on the service
01 Feb 2019
In February 2019 the UK Information Commissioner's Office issued fines totalling £120,000 against the EU referendum campaign Leave.EU (£15,000 and £45,000) and Eldon Insurance (£60,000), trading as Go Skippy Insurance, for serious breaches of electronic marketing laws. The ICO also said it would
13 Dec 2018
In December 2018 reports emerged that the Indian Electoral Commission would propose amendments to the Representation of the People Act 1951 that would require citizens to link their Electoral Photo ID Card to their Aadhaar number with the stated goal of improving the accuracy of the electoral rolls
09 Jan 2019
On January 9, 2019 the UK Information Commissioner's Office fined SCL Elections, also known as Cambridge Analytica, £15,000 for failure to comply with an enforcement notice the ICO issued in May 2018 ordering the company to respond in full to a subject access request submitted by US-based academic
14 Jan 2019
Despite Facebook's October 2018 rules intended to provide greater transparency about political ads, the sources of funding for UK political ads remained obscure in early 2019. when a network of hard-Brexit and people's vote campaigning groups spent more than £1 million on Facebook ads in the lead-up
28 Dec 2018
In December 2018, the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) warned that data misuse and voter behavioural targeting and micro-targeting could prove factors in the 2019 Indonesian general elections. Researcher Wahyudi Djafar cited examples from Kenya, where Cambridge Analytica had sent
17 Jan 2019
In January 2019, Facebook' announced it had removed multiple pages, groups, and accounts coordinating inauthentic behaviour on Facebook and Instagram that were set up by two unrelated operations originating in Russia. One of these operated 364 pages and accounts was active in the Baltics, Central
05 Nov 2018
The results of a year-long review issued by the UK Information Commissioner's Office in November 2018 uncovered a "disturbing disregard for voters' personal privacy" on the part of 30 organisations, including social media platforms, political parties, data brokers, and credit reference agencies
05 Nov 2018
During the November 2018 US midterm elections, Moveon conducted an experiment to test whether it could cheaply and quickly maximise the effectiveness of digital persuasion. The project created a Facebook app called MO Research, and recruited people to answer survey questions about current issues via
26 Dec 2018
Shortly after the 2016 US presidential election, LinkedIn founder and billionaire Reid Hoffman made a series of multi-million-dollar donations to dozens of left-leaning groups. Among them was American Engagement Technologies, in which Hoffman invested $750,000. In 2018, Hoffman wound up apologising
10 Oct 2015
In 2019, a prominent page on the Facebook Business site cited the British Conservative Party as a "success story" at the 2015 general election, which put the party into power with a narrow majority. The site boasted that via Facebook the Conservatives had an 80.6% reach in key constituencies, 3.5
18 Nov 2018
As part of the digital campaign to win re-election, in mid-2018 the BJP, which controls the Indian national government as well as that of the state of Chhattisbarh, handed out $71 million worth of free phones and subsidised data plans to 2.9 million of the state's voters and then used the phones to
18 Dec 2018
A December 2018 report prepared by the Oxford Internet Institute's Computational propaganda Research Project and the network analysis firm Graphika for the US Senate Intelligence Committee found that the campaign conducted by Russia's Internet Research Agency during the 2016 US presidential election
22 Nov 2018
In November 2018, the Spanish senate approved 220-21 an online data protection law intended to ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation with an added amendment that allowed political parties to use personal data obtained from web pages and other publicly accessible sources for
22 Nov 2018
In the run-up to the May 2019 European Parliament elections, Google announced it would launch a new set of transparency tools to combat voter manipulation. Before being allowed to buy advertising on Google platforms, campaigns will be required to verify their identity, and approved ads will be
21 Nov 2018
A 2018 study found that Twitter bots played a disproportionate role in spreading the false claim, made by US President Donald Trump shortly after winning the election but losing the popular vote in November 2016, that 3 million illegal immigrants had voted for Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton
02 Nov 2018
Facebook's latest tool for inspecting political ads showed that in the run-up to the US mid-term elections in November 2018, many of the same politicians who had been questioning Facebook about privacy and leaked user data were spending campaign funds on advertisements on the service. Between 2014
03 Nov 2018
In November 2018, the UK government announced that 11 local authorities across England would participate in Voter ID pilots in the interest of gaining "further insight into how best to ensure the security of the voting process and reduce the risk of voter fraud". Five local authorities participated
05 Nov 2018
Shortly before the November 2018 US midterm elections, the Center for Media and Democracy uncovered documents showing that the multi-billionaire Koch brothers have developed detailed personality profiles on 89 percent of the US population with the goal of using them to launch a private propaganda
12 May 2018
Facebook ads purchased in May 2016 by the Internet Research Agency, a notorious Russian troll farm, urged users to install the FaceMusic app. When installed, this Chrome extension gained wide access to the users' Facebook accounts and web browsing behaviour; in some cases it messaged all the user's
10 May 2018
In May 2018, a report form Strathmore University's Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology (CIPIT) found that some staff at Kenya's Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission who were mandated to protect voter data made millions of Kenyan shillings by illegally selling
29 Mar 2018
In March 2018, Indian Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted that the Naramendra Modi app issued by India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was leaking user data. The app is intended to spearhead BJP's social media strategy in the run-up to the 2019 general elections; the party hopes to use it to
05 Nov 2018
In November 2018, the UK government announced it would pilot voter ID for in 11 local authorities during thte 2019 local elections in order to gain insight into ensuring voting security and lowering the risk of voter fraud. The Cabinet Office deemed the pilots conducted in five local authorities
22 Aug 2018
In August 2018, the US Democratic National Committee notified the FBI that the San Francisco-based security company Lookout and the cloud service provider DigitalOcean had detected an attempted hack targeted at the DNC voter database. The attack took the form of a fake DNC login page intended to
05 Nov 2018
Shortly before the 2018 US midterm elections, Georgia secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp accused Georgia's Democratic Party of hacking into the state's voter registration database, though without providing any evidence to support the claim. The motives behind the claim were
17 Nov 2018
With only days to go before the 2018 US midterm elections, a federal judge ruled that the state of Georgia must change its "exact match" law that required voter registrations with even the tiniest variation from other official identifications to be flagged as potential non-citizens unless they could
26 Sep 2018
A combination of entrenched and litigious voting machine manufacturers with immense control over their proprietary software and a highly complex and fragmented voting infrastructure mean that even though concerns were raised as early as 2004 about the security of US voting machines, the 2018 midterm
01 May 2018
In 2018, after the UK Cabinet Office said a trial of compulsory voter ID was necessary because reports of voter fraud had more than doubled between the 2014 and 2016 elections - a claim immediately disputed by a voter and upheld by the UK Statistics Authority. While it was true that there were 21
13 Oct 2018
In the months leading up to the US 2018 midterm elections, Republican officials in Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina made moves they described as ensuring voting integrity but which critics saw as blocking voter access. In Georgia, where Secretary of State Brian Kemp is charged with enforcing
13 Oct 2018
A few months before the US 2018 midterm elections, the Trump campaign team signed a contract with the newly-formed Virginia-based company Excelsior Strategies to exploit the first-party data the campaign had collected. The contract was set up by Trump's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who built the
01 Oct 2018
A little over a month before the US 2018 midterm elections, Twitter updated its rules to reduce manipulation of its platform. Among the changes, the company outlined the factors it would use to determine whether an account is fake and should be removed, provided an update on its automated detection
04 Sep 2018
In 2018, a group of researchers from the Campaign for Accountability posed as Russian trolls and were able to purchase divisive online ads and target them at Americans using Google's advertising platform. The researchers constructed fake profiles using the name and identifying details of the
15 Oct 2018
In October 2018, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and questions over Facebook's influence on the UK's EU referendum, Facebook announced it would add Britain to the US and Brazil on the list of countries where the company will no longer allow political groups to publish "dark" ads on
15 Oct 2018
In the run-up to the US 2018 mid-term elections, Facebook announced it would broaden the company's policies against voter suppression by banning misrepresentations about how to vote and whether a vote will be counted. The company also introduced a reporting option to allow users to report incorrect
17 Mar 2018
In 2015, Facebook removed a feature that had been in place for some years that allowed developers to access information about Friends who had also signed up for their app. During that time, about 270,000 people downloaded and installed an app that was portrayed as part of an online personality quiz
01 Mar 2018
A data breach at the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll farm at the centre of Russia's interference in the 2016 US presidential election, reveals that one way the IRA operated was to use identities stolen from Americans. Using these accounts and other fake ones, the troll farm interacted
17 Mar 2018
According to whistleblower Christopher Wylie, during the 2014 US midtern elections, Cambridge Analytica, needing data to complete the new products it had promised to political advisor Steve Bannon, harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their
23 Feb 2018
A former Facebook insider explains to Wired Magazine why it's almost certain that the Trump campaign's skill using the site's internal advertising infrastructure was more important in the 2016 US presidential election than Russia's troll farm was. The first was the ads auction; the second a little
23 Oct 2017
After investigation, the UK's privacy regulatory, the Information Commissioner's Office has found that two small sections of the written scripts used by Blue Telecoms, a marketing firm that made calls on behalf of the Conservative Party during the 2017 general election, crossed the line from
28 Nov 2017
Facebook and Twitter have advised Damian Collins, the chair of the UK Parliament's digital, culture, media, and sport committee, that the companies will hand over some information relating to the rearch of Russia-backed posts during the EU referendum. Facebook has already given the US Senate similar
14 Nov 2017
A 2017 Freedom House survey of 65 countries found that 30 of them were using armies of "opinion-shapers" to manipulate elections, advance anti-democratic agendas, and repress their citizens. Although most of these countries direct these efforts to manipulate opinion domestically, the report finds
12 Feb 2016
Caucuses, which are used in some US states as a method of voting in presidential primaries, rely on voters indicating their support for a particulate candidate by travelling to the caucus location. In a 2016 Marketplace radio interview, Tom Phillips, the CEO of Dstillery, a big data intelligence
11 Dec 2015
In what proved to be the first of several years of scandals over the use of personal data in illegal, anti-democratic campaigning, in 2015 the Guardian discovered that Ted Cruz's campaign for the US presidency paid at least $750,000 that year to use tens of millions of profiles of Facebook users
11 Apr 2016
In March 2016, a hacker group identifying itself as Anonymous Philippines defaced the website of the Philippine Commission on the Elections (Comelec), leaving a message that accused Comelec of not doing enough to secure the voting machines due to be used in the general election the following month
07 Jul 2016
In 2016, supporters of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul for president were surprised to begin getting emails from the Trump campaign soon after their candidates dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination. In an investigation, CNNMoney found that nearly every failed 2016 presidential candidate sold