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Consumer advocates are worried about the tracking that happens on the websites for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. As election day nears, the two presidential campaigns are taking a very close look at the internet browsing habits of the people who visit them. According to the New York Times, the two campaign site have as many or more tracking software as some commercial sites.
Tracking software is used by commercial websites to calculate and serve specific users with specific adverts and/or information. Retail websites pioneered the technology, which they use to show targeted ads to specific users depending on their interests, area and various other criteria. In this fashion, the campaign sites of Romney and Obama can target what type of political ads to show individual visitors to the sites.
The two campaigns say that its trackers “anonymize” the data they gather, giving visitors code numbers. Many consumer advocates are worried however, saying that personal data could be used by the tracking companies in future, such as informing employers about their employees political belief, even if they only visited a site. As Christopher Calabrest, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union said: “We simply don’t know how this information is going to be used in the future and where it is going to end up.”
Thomas Goddard, a student in Santa Clara, California, and Obama supporter, wanted to view Romney’s position on abortion. After visiting Romney’s campaign site, he started receiving advertisements asking him to donate to Romney’s campaign whenever he went online. “It doesn’t make any sense. I’m the opposite of a Romney supporter. But ever since I went to the Romney site, they’ve been following me,” Goddard said.
Obama campaign spokesman Adam Fetcher told The Times that they do not allow the companies it hires to use gathered data for other purposes. Romney’s campaign spokesman, Ryan Williams, wrote in an email he sent to The Times: “The Romney campaign respects the privacy rights of all Americans. We are committed to ensuring that all of our voter outreach is governed by the highest ethical standards.”