Module IV

The Dilemmas of Using Personal Data for Political Influence

A sketch on a background image, mostly in yellow color and with various shapes

As data-driven decision making becomes increasingly embedded in our lives, so do ethical questions about the same practices. Technology has proven to develop, iterate and change faster than laws, regulations and education systems, often leaving individuals exposed and their information at risk. In the excitement of imagining the new possibilities that technology offers, questions of security and lasting impact can be overlooked. This chapter examines multiple reasons to interrogate the use of personal data in political campaigns, many of which pertain to the security and capacity of citizens to participate in politics.

Take aways

  • 1

    Identify several issues surrounding the use of personal data in political campaigns

  • 2

    Connect the right to privacy to political identity

  • 3

    Contextualise concerns about the effectiveness of data analytics within political influence

The current political and economic systems that collect, process and sell data away from the public eye exploit individuals by misrepresenting the true cost of the exchange. Beyond that, when consumers don't have a viable alternative to the status quo, consent is less meaningful.

Understanding the impact of using personal data to create or enrich political influence requires a deeper comprehension of several already complex fields. There are many concerns about data-driven practices that require attention, including an inequality in access to the tools, which leads to increased gaps within society; as well as the accuracy and effectiveness of relying on computerised and quantified data to produce knowledge.

In this module, you will become familiar with several of the issues surrounding the current data-driven political campaigning model. This module is by no means exhaustive but can provide a basis to inform your work. The module will first examine the right to privacy and possible impacts of privacy disintegration. It introduces the concept of data logic and dissects the underlying assumptions of data logic. It also examines the effect of “permanent” campaigns, which are constantly enriching their databases, as well as what happens to the data during transfers of power or as leaders in tech become leaders in government or vice-versa.

Sections for Module 4