Oct 12, 2019 - Politics & Policy

New way to track voters: Their smartphones

In this image, Trump points at a MAGA rally attendee

President Trump at a Sept. 9 MAGA rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A Republican PAC that supports President Trump's re-election campaign plans to use location data from voters' smartphones "to find people who may not be registered to vote" in about 6 swing states before 2020, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: This technique — called "geofencing" — was used by 2020 Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke during his 2018 Senate race, WSJ reports, and by CatholicVote, a conservative political advocacy group.

What's happening: The Committee to Defend the President "hired a company to collect unique identification numbers" from MAGA rally attendees' smartphones in North Carolina last month, per the WSJ —to create targeted ads that would drive people to the polls.

Between the lines, via the WSJ: "Political campaigns have long compiled exhaustive lists of all registered voters from state offices or other groups. They later supplemented that with demographic and purchasing information from data brokers in an approach called 'microtargeting' that has been used for years. Now detailed information gathered from smartphones is adding a new dimension to those techniques."

Go deeper: Political Campaigns Know Where You’ve Been. They’re Tracking Your Phone.

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