Does political microtargeting of America’s private citizens infringe on the Bill of Rights? It has been widely documented that the Trump campaign deployed the largest scale personal data campaign in US history. Using ~5000 separate data points on +300 million Americans, they narrowly won the US presidential general election in key counties while losing the popular vote.
The 4th amendment reads “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Microtargeting is typically defined as the use by political parties and election campaigns of direct marketing data-mining techniques that involve predictive market segmentation. In the era of more personal data types being either publically available or for purchase, it should be assumed that the makeup of our personhood is being unreasonably searched.
While we are in a new era of agreeing upon how to classify the data that citizens naturally contribute the pool of society, it is a fact that our native data is under our private ownership. Still while the Bill of Rights does not mention privacy explicitly, our personal property needs to be secured by us, just as our persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Our initial question begs us to consider what we seek to secure by acknowledging our personally identifiable information (Pii) exists in the form of tangible manipulatable data-points. Specifically we are considering the security our basic right to be informed and right to choose. Both of these inalienable Basic Rights that are enforced and protected by the American constitution rest between the right to safety and the right to be heard.
At no point in our democratic process should citizens have to repress the tangible pieces of their identities to avoid being targeted by truths or untruths in such a personally specific manner that the right to free choice is compromised. For the right price microtargeting campaigns can collect social, financial, health, insurance, and location data on individuals while avoiding polling and focusing on circumstance of both habit and need to deploy messages.
Starting at the beginning of the 2016 campaign cycle, multiple professionals who ascribe the journalistic creed of acknowledging the public journal as a public trust documented fact of the Republican candidate as having told lies and untruths upwards of 70% of the time. Using the method of seizing and searching individual’s personal data to create actions while discrediting the journalistic trust will have the most detrimental effects on our democracy and global discourse. The only way to secure and empower an individual’s right to choose, is to ensure that we the people acknowledge our constitutional rights to be secure in our persons, as the 4th Amendment explicitly states.
Still there is a greater problem. In a world where our physical identities can be summed in 0’s and 1’s our personal data is a tangible representation of our personhood. The constitution and all of its amendments guide a federation of states and are susceptible to state action, which means that a state itself has to be the perpetrator of seizing and searching our personhood. This leaves all people vulnerable to acts by private institutions or individuals. Even while the Supreme Court has traditionally ruled in favor of our bodily integrity in the past, it has not had to consider digital representations of ourselves as our personhood. Perhaps a 28th amendment is the most reasonable ask in order to protect choice and freedom of our most basic property.