Election 2014  
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Dark Money Political Groups Target Voters Based on Their Internet Habits

Seeing the same political ads on every Web site you visit? Maybe the ad-makers know more about you than you'd ever guess.

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Recent surveys suggest many American aren't enthusiastic about political targeting online.

A survey of 1,503 adult Internet users released this week by the Annenberg School for Communications found that 86 percent of the respondents did not want "web sites to show you political ads tailored to your interests." Most respondents also said they want to know what the campaigns know about them.

In general, Berns said, "I'm fine with targeted advertising. If I'm going to see ads on the Internet, I'd rather they be something I'm interested in." But, he said, he draws the line at politics.

"I'd much prefer a world where candidates tried to equally hard to reach everyone, present their policies rationally, and let the chips fall where they may," he wrote in an e-mail. 

"Targeting by political viewpoint is 'creepy,'" he wrote. "A little too close to propaganda techniques for my comfort."

Have you seen a targeted political ad?  

Help ProPublica find out how politicians are targeting you online.

  1. If you spot a small blue triangle icon on any online political ad, or the words "Ad Choices," take a screenshot of the ad.
  2. Then click on the blue triangle or the words “Ad Choices” to find out which company showed you the ad. Take a screenshot of that, too.
  3. E-mail the screenshots to us at  targeting2012@propublica.org. Please include the full URL of the page where you saw the ad.

If the ad asks you to “learn more,” visit a website, donate, or sign a petition, please send us a screenshot of that site or petition, as well. (The page where the ad sends you may also be targeted to what advertisers know about you.)

Not sure how to take a screenshot? Here are the instructions if you're  using a PCusing a Mac, or  using a smartphone.

You can also check out ProPublica's  "Message Machine" project, which analyzes how campaigns are targeting voters with different e-mail messages. 

 

 

 

Lois Beckett is a ProPublica reporter covering politics, big data and information privacy issues.