Political parties mining your social media data for targeted ads, online experts warn

With provincial elections underway in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, many in both provinces are beginning to see political ads in their social media feeds.

As the political landscape has changed, so has the way political parties look to influence voters at the ballot box.

Now, experts are warning that digital engineers are using online data — collected from your digital footprint — to potentially sway how you vote.

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“Facebook has tons of information, and these are all pieces of data that are all accessible to advertisers,” digital strategist Aleem Fidai told Global News.

“Political parties are utilizing your information.”

Fidai is the CEO at Exposed Marketing, a company that specializes in targeted online ads.

“Using Facebook and social platforms, we tap into a user and we find demographics and we target very hyper-targeted ads to these people,” said Fidai.

According to Fidai, one tool that political digital strategists use is Pixel, a Facebook add-on that tracks embedded code on websites to help develop custom audiences for political ads.

“Voters can be definitely swayed and Facebook makes it a ton easier,” Fidai said.

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A social media expert from Brandon University, Chris Schneider, said Facebook is adversely affecting democracy.

“There’s no doubt that members of a variety of political parties are using information that’s garnered from not only social media, but other online sites,” said Schneider.

According to Schneider, the power to persuade with targeted ads on Facebook using mined data from social media is an inherent threat to democracy.

“This is a company that’s based in the United States, and if this going to have any kind of influence on the elections in British Columbia or Saskatchewan, it’s entirely problematic,” Schneider said.

“I think that as other people have pointed out, Facebook here simply has too much power here to control and influence democracy.”

A recent Ipsos poll done for exclusively for Global News showed that 77 per cent of Canadians think more needs to be done to regulate social media in Canada, and Schneider agrees.

“I think new policies, new laws, need to be passed to ensure that Facebook and other social media are abiding by these laws in the interest of democracy,” Schneider said.

But until new policy changes or new laws are in place, Fidai has a suggestion of his own for regulation during an election.

“Log out.”

 

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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