microtarget – verb
microtargeting – noun
The manipulation of social media data to microtarget voters without their consent has significantly increased.
Has the rise of micro-targeting become a threat to democracy?
The recent scandal about the use by a firm called Cambridge Analytica of data scraped from the profiles of millions of unwitting Facebook users has brought the term microtargeting into the limelight. To microtarget consumers, or in this case voters, means to craft messages targeted at very small groups or even individuals that aim to persuade them to buy certain things or to vote in a particular way. These messages differ from the usual forms of advertising or political messaging in that they are based on large amounts of detailed information about personal interests and preferences. While microtargeting has been standard practice in marketing and even political campaigning for some time, recent concern about its use revolves around the fact that social media users had no idea that their own data was being used to target them in ways that were not clear or transparent, and may even have influenced the outcomes of elections.
Although microtargeting has become the focus of intense media and parliamentary scrutiny only recently, it has actually been around for some time. Its widespread use in politics began in the US in the early 2000s.