Street view on Google maps still sort of wows me. I'm still not sure I'm prepared for the power of being able to see almost every house in America, block by block. So it's really no surprise that VoterMapping blew my mind.
VoterMapping is a new campaign tool that allows a user to see not only every house, but who lives in the house, how they vote, and even what kinds of magazines they get. You can map the state of Illinois based on Democrats who give to religous organizations and enjoy gardening magazines. The tool not only can give likely ethnicities, income levels, and tell you whether people have a premium credit card, but it can also show all the data points around congressional districts, state legislative districts—even elementary school districts.
In the meantime, national campaigns—with access to state money—can use the internet to figure out where you live, what you like, and where you shop. After that, it's easy to tailor web ads to appeal to you. Welcome to the new world of campaigning, based largely on your personal data.
Internet campaigning can seem particularly freaky. A few weeks ago, the New York Times Magazine published a story called "How Companies Learn Your Secrets," detailing just how much some stores use personal data for marketing. The story zeroed in on Target, which can figure out when women are pregnant and then market specifically to their needs. But while the article prompted an outcry from many (it has over 570 comments so far), campaigns are using similar tactics.
"Any one who believes they have privacy online is kidding themselves," says Joe Trippi, who managed the 2004 Howard Dean campaign, the pioneer of online campaign fundraising. "It's not the campaigns, it's the Internet. People think that that you can go visit any site you want and they're not collecting the data. That's just not reality."
Much like corporations, Trippi says campaigns can target individuals based on the sites they frequent and things they buy. Based on those patterns, you can get an ad targeting specific areas of interest. "You don't know that you're the only person getting it," says Trippi. "You still think that everyone else's webpage is looking exactly like yours.