Big Data and the election


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This Motherboard article is kind of crazy. It looks at how Big Data was leveraged by the Trump Campaign.

Anyone who has not spent the last five years living on another planet will be familiar with the term Big Data. Big Data means, in essence, that everything we do, both on and offline, leaves digital traces. Every purchase we make with our cards, every search we type into Google, every movement we make when our mobile phone is in our pocket, every "like" is stored. Especially every "like." For a long time, it was not entirely clear what use this data could have--except, perhaps, that we might find ads for high blood pressure remedies just after we've Googled "reduce blood pressure."


Google's ad model is pretty familiar and relatively transparent. Search for something, you'll see ads for that or similar things. Combining multiple data sources like buying data sources of real estate, shopping, reward memberships, etc with social media can make for a powerful tool.

"Pretty much every message that Trump put out was data-driven," Alexander Nix remembers. On the day of the third presidential debate between Trump and Clinton, Trump's team tested 175,000 different ad variations for his arguments, in order to find the right versions above all via Facebook. The messages differed for the most part only in microscopic details, in order to target the recipients in the optimal psychological way: different headings, colors, captions, with a photo or video. This fine-tuning reaches all the way down to the smallest groups, Nix explained in an interview with us. "We can address villages or apartment blocks in a targeted way. Even individuals."