Location-based targeting: History, usage, and related concerns


Location-based targeting is increasingly being utilized in political campaigns and is often a subject of concern for privacy advocates. In today’s hyper-connected world, people face challenges to their privacy due to the large amounts of personal data that are constantly being gathered. A great deal of this information is focused on people’s personal habits, both online and offline: their location, movements, and behaviors. The use of location-based targeting in the political sphere poses a challenge to democracy because geolocation data can be exploited to deceive voters as well as to (unknowingly) influence voting behavior.

While political campaigns are increasingly utilizing location-based targeting, policymakers continue to struggle with adequate responses that would better regulate the comprehensive reach of location-based targeting. In order to provide practice-oriented research, the Propaganda Lab at the Center for Media Engagement created an overview on location-based targeting, including its history, the technologies behind it, and its usage over the years. The report also provides recommendations for the healthy development of these technological possibilities.