One side of the data divide has companies making money from personal data. The other side buys data from them. Which side are you on?
Companies, government agencies and campaigns rely on data and lists to reach their target audience. Facebook, Google, YouTube and Amazon collect mountains of data and make billions selling it to advertisers.
Data is a digital plantation. You can make money of it by growing your own crops (selling products) to people on whom you have collected detailed profiles like Jeff Bezos does with Amazon Prime. Or you can rent your pieces of your plantation to others to grown their crops on, like Mark Zuckerberg does by providing access to data collected by Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. And their plantations grow as people willing provide more data about themselves.
How can nonprofits and campaigns reduce the data divide? Understand how Facebook collects data and use the same approach to collect data on potential supporters, voters, volunteers and donors. Better data and lists let you customize messages to the recipient improving the odds that they will respond. The technique is easier and more affordable than you'd think.
This blog explains:
- What is the digital divide
- How corporations make billions off your data
- Data divide and how it applies to activism and politics
- The importance of opt-in lists
- How to collect opt in data affordably with chatbots
The data divide and politics
Big data divide is the asymmetric relationship between those who collect, store, and mine large quantities of data (like Facebook, Google, Palantir, YouTube and Amazon) and those whom data collection targets (such as shoppers and voters). - Monash University
Less than a hundred companies collect more than 50% of the data produced today. These companies profit enormously from this, while highlighting the staggering divide in data ownership.
"While you’re logged onto Facebook, for instance, the network can see virtually every other website you visit. Even when you’re logged off, Facebook knows much of your browsing: It’s alerted every time you load a page with a “Like” or “share” button.
“Facebook’s business model is to amass as much first-party and third-party data on you as possible, and slowly dole out access to it,” Peter Eckersley, the chief computer scientist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation said. “If you’re using Facebook, you’re entrusting the company with records of everything you do. I think people have reason to be concerned about that.” - WaPo
Data ownership gives companies like Facebook enormous political power at swaying political opinion. Facebook customizes content to suit individual interests, making it a perfect delivery system for targeted political ads. - ScreenRant
Why opt-in lists matter
Facebook, YouTube and Google users willingly share their personal data in return for reading posts, watching videos and search results. It is a transaction. Users give information about themselves in return for something they want. And in return they have (often unknowingly) opted-in to get other messages from advertisers.
Google and Facebook both monetize and deliver ads. Campaigns however, face new restrictions in using peer-to-peer (P2P) texting to contact voters as telcos restrict texting to commercial lists.
"10DLC points to the extraordinary power tech companies have to regulate who can communicate with the public.
Text message “open rates” tend to be much higher than those of email, making texting a more attractive way for campaigns to engage voters. And while businesses are required under federal law to get affirmative consent to contact individuals by text, so-called peer-to-peer messaging, or P2P, has long operated in a legal gray area. Because peer-to-peer messages are sent by individuals, though aided by applications, they have not qualified as the kind of automated mass text blasts that need opt-in consent.
Mobile carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T are unhappy with the number of spam text messages — including political ones — that their customers receive. In the next few months, they’re rolling out major changes affecting who can send texts and how many they can send. The changes — named “10DLC” for the 10-digit long codes that high-volume businesses and apps use to text local numbers — will require high-volume text purveyors to register with the Campaign Registry."
“We encourage wireless carriers, aggregators, and others in the wireless ecosystem to adopt a more collaborative approach to text messaging regulations and actually engage with the communities impacted by these changes,” said LaToia Jones, a senior vice president at Hustle, “instead of unilaterally dictating opaque rules that disenfranchise voters and chill civic engagement without any external input or oversight.” - The Intercept
Advocacy groups and campaigns should also build their own opt-in lists that do not face such restrictions.
Grassroots data collection campaign
Mothers of Hope runs a grassroots data collection campaign using a chatbot. They offer people a free swagg bag for opt-ing in to their offer. Users can either text 'Swagg' to 202-858-0303 or scan the QR Code. Mothers of Hope collects opt-in user data for less than 5 cents per record saved and the cost of setting up a bot with a keyword is $50.
Simply create the offer and where users can redeem the offer once they have accepted the terms and conditions. Their contact information is saved and they enjoy the offer that you provide. This could be anything from a free bottle of water, a T-shirt of a swag bag. You're offering them an offer in exchange for their opt-in information with which you can send them customized messages in the future. Knowing which offer and where they responded to gives you valuable insights into what appeals to them.
This demo shows a user on a phone interaction (on the left) and the backend of the chatbot where the offer is created and contact data collected (on the right). Phone numbers are also collected though not shown in this demo.
There's a lot more to a person than their party affiliation and when they last voted. What issue do they care about? Education, occupation, family size, language they speak, religion and a lot more. Commercial data brokers sell this information, but what are you buying and how accurate is it?
Current - How recent or out of date is the data you're using?
Cost - How much does it cost to buy or rent a list for your campaign?
Complete - How much information does the data you are using provide about an individual? The more data you have on an individual, the better you can customize your message.
Accuracy - How accurate is the data you're using for targeting? When was it last updated?
Localized - How specific to a community or city is the data you're using for targeting?
Transparency - Can you measure the response to your campaign - or do you have to take the word of the firm (like Facebook) that they ads were delivered?