Cruz Campaign Used Facebook to Mine Personal Info

You see them all the time on Facebook– What Is Your Personality Type? Where should You Retire? What is your personality type? When you click on these little multiple choice quizzes, you are often giving the quizzer access to all your Facebook data. Where you live, the political party you support, your age, your religious or sexual preference. Do you LIKE the NRA? Do you LIKE Planned Parenthood? Your LIKES are retrieved and the data compiled.

The presidential campaign of Texas Senator Ted Cruz was recently discovered using this technique on a massive scale. Cruz is widely credited at having the best political organization of any of the Republican candidates for president. Cruz has developed a solid ground campaign in early primary states and is also a leader in using technology to get himself elected.

Funded by billionaire and Wall Street hedge-fund guru Robert Mercer, Cruz’ campaign was conducting surveys across Facebook that gave them access to the personal information of reportedly millions of FB users. Mercer and the companies he set up, used an elaborate string of data-mining businesses to retrieve information for Cruz. The multiple companies were apparently utilized to shield the campaign from a direct connection to the data being retrieved.

In survey after survey many FB users say they would not mind giving up personal information in exchange for the fun of determining their personality type or learning their ideal vacation spot. In fact FB now requires the “advertisers” that conduct these tests to state clearly upfront that the users data will be mined. This was not always the case though. Plus it looks as if no one has conducted a program as broad and thorough as the Cruz campaign.

For years marketers laboriously compiled consumers by category. From companies like Claritas or LeadsPlease you could buy lists of a wide range of types . Did your campaign need to appeal to working moms? How about stay-at-home moms? Or even postgraduate educated moms. The lists were very expensive and the information was occasionally out-of-date, plus it was difficult merge-purge that info with the voter file. As you can tell from above, the Cruz campaign has found a way to make collecting that data much faster and easier.

At Advocacy.Marketing we have asked ourselves about building that kind of a quiz. If a client asked us, would we do it? Today, the answer is no. There are so many other Internet tools available to find supporters or opponents. And in doing so those that respond to an online request by clicking on a landing page, signing an online petition or clicking to call an elected official, know they are lending their name to a cause or issue they already have a position on. Is everyone that took a Cruz quiz, a supporter of Cruz For President? It’s very doubtful.