E-Deceptive campaign practices

From CFPWiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Today, voters are relying more and more on Internet enabled communications to engage in political decision-making. Deceptive practices tactics that target e-mail, instant message, and cell phone users can compress the timeline for launching successful disinformation and misinformation attacks from days to hours or minutes. This tutorial will review what is happening in 2010 and how it might compare with the e-deceptive campaign tactics identified in a report on this topic published in 2008.


  • Lillie Coney: Associate Director, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). Moderator.
  • Peter G. Neumann: Principal Scientist, SRI Computer Science Lab.
  • Timothy H. Edgar: Director for Privacy and Civil Liberties, Cybersecurity Directorate of National Security Staff.
  • GingerMcCall: Staff Counsel, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

Detailed Description

Many companies, including Internet Service Providers (ISPs), search engine firms, and web- based businesses, monitor users as they travel across the Internet, collecting information on what sites they visit, the time and length of these visits, search terms they enter, purchases they make, or even "click-through" responses to banner ads. In the off-line world this would be comparable to, for example, having someone follow you through a shopping mall, scanning each page of every magazine you browse though, every pair of shoes that you look at and every menu entry you read at the restaurant. When collected and combined with other data such as demographic or "psychographic" data, these diffuse pieces of information create highly detailed profiles of individuals. These profiles have become a major currency in electronic commerce where advertisers and marketers predict a user’s preferences, interests, needs and possible future purchases using them. Many of these profiles are currently stored in connection with an assigned number or the user's Internet Protocol (IP) address, exposing users to risk of the information being linked to other information, such as names and addresses, making them personally identifiable. In 2006, the search records of 658,000 Americans were made public by America Online (AOL) demonstrating that the storage of a number as opposed a name does not necessarily mean that search data cannot be linked back to an individual. Although the search logs released by AOL had been "anonymized," therefore only identifying users by assigned numbers, news reporters easily matched user numbers with identifiable individuals.

One of the key aspects of deceptive campaigns is voter profiling. Profiles are used to develop expectations on the behavior of individuals based on their activities, preferences for a wide range of products and services, personal associations, religious beliefs, political participation, type of work, neighborhood, place of birth, level of education, etc. The Internet offers a rich source of information on all of the means of traditional profiling with one added advantage: the collection of data can be constant and completely hidden from online users.

There were documented cases where deceptive attacks were deployed with the intent of misdirecting or misinforming voters regarding key information regarding rules related to participating in the 2008 election.