Data wars: Political operatives scrutinize Americans’ digital lives to hunt for voters, donors

by | Oct 12, 2022 | News

The Netflix shows you watch, the books you read and the food you eat are all part of a broad set of data that political operatives use to determine whether you will vote in this year’s midterm elections and give money to their candidates.

Democratic data firm Sterling Data Co. told The Washington Times that it has developed a donor behavior algorithm capable of finding people willing to fund Democratic campaigns regardless of whether they have ever done so before.

“I think most people don’t really understand how their data is being used, and I’m not saying that in a bad way,” said Martin Kurucz, Sterling’s CEO. “Everybody’s data is used for advertising. There’s nobody on this earth whose data isn’t out there.”

Sterling acquires troves of data from brokers such as Experian and Acxiom and reviews hundreds of categories of online behavior by individual potential voters, including their streaming choices and preferences for fiction or nonfiction books.

Mr. Kurucz said he started developing the algorithm while working for Gil Cisneros, a California Democrat in Congress who was struggling to raise money ahead of the 2020 election. After applying the algorithm, he said, Mr. Cisneros’ team saw a spike in dollars raised per hour their candidate spent on the phone.

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