The protests continuing around the country are historic displays of social action. For political operatives, the mass gatherings are also a unique opportunity to harvest data on potential voters.
Advocacy and voter-registration groups are gathering a trove of data from protests by tracking the cellphones of participants and sending them messages about registering to vote or taking other actions. The tactics, which one user called “deeply spooky yet extremely helpful,” are the latest example of ways political groups are using cellphone data to target voters.
Tracking individuals through location data gathered by apps on their phones, often referred to as geofencing, has been used by businesses for years and has more recently caught on among political groups. That data allows firms to reach people’s phones with ads or other messaging—in real-time or later—without identifying individuals, proponents say.