Facebook Gives Political Campaigns the Boot

Company will let users restrict data shared on third-party apps
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2014 4:00 PM CST
Facebook Gives Political Campaigns the Boot
This Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 photo, shows a board with the Facebook logo inside the new Facebook data centers in Altoona, Iowa.   (AP Photo/The Des Moines Register, Charlie Litchfield)

Facebook is putting the kibosh on a powerful tool that political campaigns (like President Obama's in 2012) have used to reach young voters, Yahoo reports. By next April, Facebook will have completed an overhaul that prevents third-party apps from gathering information about people who use the same app. What's the big deal? Two years ago, Team Obama rolled out its own Facebook app that allowed users to show the campaign their friend list. Organizers could then run "those friend lists up against the voter file, and make targeted suggestions as to who [supporters] should be sharing stuff with," says Teddy Goff, Obama's digital director back then. (Mitt Romney's people did it too, but only in the campaign's final month.)

At least for Democrats, this was a bullet pass to the end zone—a way of reaching young people who "lived in the cellular shadows," often without a listed phone number, Time reports. But Facebook heard complaints from users about their information being shared, and decided to let each person choose "what information they want to share ... including their friend list," a company engineer writes in a blog post. That change will be finalized by next April—which leaves today's political operatives looking for workarounds, or, like the National Republican Senatorial Committee, ignoring targeted sharing tools on Facebook altogether. "I’m not convinced there aren’t going to be ways" around the change, says Goff. "But nobody has found a way yet." (See why Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie were "winners" in the midterm elections.)

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