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Election 2020

A new bill aims to protect US voters from the next Cambridge Analytica

Photo by Shop Catalog (CC BY 2.0/Flickr)
Photo by Shop Catalog (CC BY 2.0/Flickr)
Photo by Shop Catalog (CC BY 2.0/Flickr)Photo by Shop Catalog, www.shopcatalog.com (CC BY 2.0/Flickr)

As the 2020 campaign season accelerates, a US lawmaker introduced a bill on Thursday that would regulate how political parties use voters’ data in federal elections.

Voter privacy: Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein said the bill, the Voter Privacy Act, is the first to directly respond to Cambridge Analytica, which used Facebook to harvest the data of 87 million voters, often without permission, in hopes of influencing their behavior. In fact, this was just one of many data operations ongoing in the world of US elections.

Massive collections of data: In 2017, the Republican National Committee accidentally exposed political data on more than 198 million US citizens. The incident highlighted the technical challenges of protecting sensitive data troves online, as well as the enormous collections of information the Republican Party has gathered in an effort to win the next vote.

While legislators around the world have zeroed in on how industry uses personal data, there is no American law governing the collection and use of voter data in politics.

The pitch: “Political candidates and campaigns shouldn’t be able to use private data to manipulate and mislead voters,” Senator Feinstein said. “This bill would help put an end to such actions. Today, campaigns are legally able to conduct sophisticated online surveillance of everyone in our country in order to influence individuals based on their unique psychological characteristics.”

Feinstein’s Voter Privacy Act would allow voters to review personal information collected by political organizations, require organizations to notify voters when they receive personal information, and ban the transfer or sale of voter data. Voters would be able to instruct campaigns to delete their data and tell ad companies like Google and Facebook to withhold their data profiles from political organizations to avoid targeted advertising.

Photo: Shop Catalog

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