Big data is an emerging weapon in the arsenal of political parties
Big data is an emerging weapon in the arsenal of political parties

Electoral roll accusations: Has your privacy been lost?

Ever wondered how campaign propaganda from political parties and other groups seems to be increasingly finding its way into your orbit during election campaigns?

It shows up in your letterbox, not just as junk mail but with your name and address attached to it. It shows up on your phone as text messages and as pre-recorded calls from your local candidate. It shows up on your social media feeds, and often seems tailored to your specific concerns and interests.

Labor accused of giving voters' private details to unions

Big data is an emerging weapon in the arsenal of political parties during elections.

The days of campaign trails and public debates have been diminished and replaced by a covert guerrilla war where the aim is to target the right voters, in the right seats with the right message using much more direct means. It's efficient and effective for parties who don't like having their messages filtered by the media. But for voters, it's an increasingly insidious practice invading their privacy.

The allegation exposed by The Courier-Mail today that Labor and the unions have combined electoral roll data with membership details should concern every Queenslander.

Through polling, the parties know the demographic and geographic obstacles they need to overcome to win elections.

If the allegations are true, Labor and the unions, using this data set, could target voters of a specific age, occupation and electorate. If polling shows Labor is struggling with younger blue-collar workers in the seat of Keppel, the data could spit out a list of union members aged under 35 with their address and phone number. They could be doorknocked, letterbox dropped or called direct and the message tailored to whatever the polling research shows are their concerns.

Is it appropriate for parties to have the electoral roll? Yes, federal legislation tells us so. Is it illegal for this information to be passed on and used by others? That's for lawyers to decide.

But the critical question for voters is do we believe the campaigning techniques are intruding on our privacy to a point that it is unacceptable?

Originally published as Electoral roll accusations: Has your privacy been lost?


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