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Voter Surveillance, Micro-Targeting and Media Manipulation: What Are the Risks for Privacy, Data Protection and Democracy?

Wednesday, 25 January, 2017 - 20:00
De Markten, Spiegelzaal
Oude Graanmarkt 5 Rue du Vieux Marché aux Grains, 1000 Brussels
Privacy Salon

A PRIVACYTOPIA event organized in the context of Computers, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) 2017

Influenced by trends in the United States, election campaigns in many democratic countries are now becoming increasingly data-driven. Concerns have arisen about how political parties and candidates process and analyse personal data on individual voters. The capture and consolidation of these data permit the construction of detailed profiles on individual voters and the ‘micro-targeting’ of increasingly precise messages to increasingly refined segments of the electorate. Furthermore, not only are voters under this type of surveillance, they also, increasingly, rely on social media and the internet in general to gather political information and to engage in political discussions within their social networks. Existing studies argue that social media, but also search engines capture users in filter bubbles, where they are mainly exposed to like-minded views or the same types of search results. Fake news has been said to influence the outcome of the US elections and ahead of the elections in Germany and France, political leaders in Europe voiced concern about bots, fake news and the algorithms ranking news on social media.

This debate will address the following questions: How is data on voters being mined and profiled by parties and candidates? Do fake news and filter bubbles influence the outcome of elections? Are these trends exacerbating the “democratic deficit”? What are the implications for privacy, for data protection law, and for democracy in general?

Confirmed speakers: Colin Bennett, Marcy Wheeler