A POLITICAL TWILIGHT ZONE?
While GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has ridden a wave of populist angst to his lofty position in the polls, the No. 2 candidate in the “Republican” field – U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas – has been clawing his way into contention via an aggressive grassroots movement and sophisticated data collection and exploitation.
Cruz is methodically micro-targeting voters … reprising and reinventing many of the turnout techniques successfully employed by U.S. president Barack Obama during his groundbreaking 2008 bid.
The latest example? The “Cruz Crew” mobile app … which is being promoted by the campaign digitally and as part of its door-to-door canvassing efforts.
Take a look (it’s item No. 3 on the grassroots flyer below) …
(Click to enlarge)
According to the Associated Press, Cruz’s app isn’t just about providing information – it’s built to take information as well.
Specifically, the app is “designed to gather detailed information from its users’ phones – tracking their physical movements and mining the names and contact information for friends who might want nothing to do with his campaign.”
Wait … what?
A presidential campaign is monitoring people’s movements? Gathering their contact names and numbers from supporters’ cell phones?
Yes … and ironically, it’s the campaign of a guy who has been a leader on privacy issues.
By downloading the “Cruz Crew” app, more than 60,000 users have given Cruz’s campaign” express consent to access your contact list.” The app also tracks the location of the smartphone “so that we can connect you to other Cruz Crew users based on your particular geographic location.”
Um … that’s kind of creepy. Creepier still? Cruz’s campaign is sharing the information it gathers from your phone with other organizations – and with analytics companies.
Clearly this “Manchurian Candidate” approach to political campaigning has paid dividends for Cruz. He narrowly won the 2016 Iowa Caucus and scored a better-than-expected third place finish in New Hampshire earlier this week. Meanwhile in South Carolina, he’s currently polling in second place behind Trump.
And technically, his campaign is not doing anything wrong … as users who don’t want their contacts scoured or their physical locations tracked can opt-out of those features on the “Cruz Crew” app.
Still, there’s something more than a little bit unsettling about these sorts of tactics … to say nothing of the sort of people who would be willing to turn that kind of information over.