The next time you’re browsing on your computer, and you see a quiz on Facebook or another social media site that looks appealing, think before you click.
With the political season back upon us, you need to be aware of how the data you share in these quizzes might be used.
You might not think that a quiz about your favorite foods or personality type will be beneficial to political parties but, these days, you never know. Any data you share could ultimately be used for political profiling.
What is political profiling?
Profiling is a method of analyzing individuals’ data to classify them into groups or sectors. Political parties have used profiling techniques for decades, but it has entered a new realm in light of the internet.
With tools like artificial intelligence and data analytics, political parties can create detailed profiles about individuals and groups, which could even be used to unethically manipulate their political choices through fake news and social media advertisements.
It sounds scary – and it is! Most of us may remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018.
In this event, Cambridge Analytica collected the data of millions of people via an app called This Is Your Digital Life. The app was an online survey that asked users questions about their political preferences and personality traits. All of the answers given in this quiz were then used for data analysis during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
As a side note, if you’re worried about third parties having access to your data, contact us. We can help you improve your online data privacy and reduce unwanted advertisements.
How do political parties use profiling?
Profiling is used as the basis for targeted online content that is aimed at specific, tailored audiences. With Facebook ads, political parties can create highly personalized content and choose who to share it with, so they know it will have the most impact.
Unfortunately, because Facebook and other social media sites allow such targeted ads, this means that end users don’t get a complete or fair picture of the political sphere. You may only see specific messages over and over again, which can lead to misinformation and swing votes unfairly.
What should I do to avoid being profiled?
Aside from avoiding online surveys, you can do a few things to help prevent the spread of misinformation during the political season. You might think that these ads won’t target you, but older citizens are actually a prime demographic for political parties.
Research shows that older adults were exposed to more misinformation on Twitter during that election. Plus, older voters in the U.S. are also consistently more likely to vote than younger groups.
To ensure fair political outcomes, it’s important to educate yourself on the spread of false information. While players like Facebook and Twitter are working to stop the spread of fake news, you also need to do your own due diligence.
- Always fact check before sharing a post on social media. This will make sure that you only spread accurate, legitimate news and stories.
- Check the source of the news or story before your share. Mainstream news is the best source you can rely on. Information shared by a friend or relative – unless it is a first person account – is not always reliable, as you don’t know where they might have shared the story from.
- Look out for what the story is trying to prove or disprove. Often, fake news stories will have a clear agenda, such as discrediting a person or group of people. If a story is hammering into one person or group, there may be bias motivations behind it. You should also be wary of stories from a specific political party or candidate, as they have a clear agenda to show themselves in a better light and discredit their opponents.
- Watch out for highly emotive stories. While some news stories may make you feel sad or shocked, some fake news pieces are designed to elicit an emotive response. By making you feel something, fraudsters are hoping you will react quickly – without thinking it through.
- Be aware of your own confirmation bias. If you see a story that aligns with your views and emotions, you’re more likely to believe it. This phenomenon is known as confirmation bias. In line with this, people over 65 were more likely to share false or misleading content on Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign. If your data is being used for profiling, you’ll likely see many stories like this. Just by being aware of profiling and confirmation bias, you can prevent the spread of misinformation.
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