Why do we need to understand political microtargeting?

Experts say Big Tech needs to be much more transparent about how microtargeting works, to avoid overblown claims but also counter a potential threat to democracy. (Photo: Instagram)

Microtargeting involves using the huge amounts of data consumers give away online about who they are friends with and what they like to target ads at them.

While microtargeting has long been part of what makes the likes of Facebook and Google so profitable, it really came under mainstream scrutiny in 2018 during the data leak involving political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

Per investigations by The Observer in 2018, Cambridge Analytica used data to build up “psychographic profiles” of people in order to more accurately target them with political ads.

According to Channel 4’s investigation this week, Cambridge Analytica was behind the 2016 ads targeting Black voters in Georgia.