Blurring the lines between a high-stakes political event and Wheel of Fortune, Andrew Yang announced at last Thursday’s debate that his campaign would choose 10 families to receive $12,000 over the course of a year. But the sign-up process raises the question—seemingly the defining question of our digital age—where is your data going?
The biggest surprise from the quirky candidate since he decided to go tie-less, the announcement of the giveaway allows voters to sample Yang’s signature policy, the Freedom Dividend. Under a President Yang, Americans would be guaranteed a universal basic income of $1,000 per month, no strings attached.
He plugged his campaign website, Yang2020.com, on which people looking to grab a grand can register for the contest, using their name, email address and zip code—suggesting that their user information, however scant, will end up in the hands of the candidate’s campaign.
If you submit your registration via cellphone, Friends of Andrew Yang may access your mobile GPS information to assess your specific location, to use for relevant promotional offers or to suggest campaign events near you.
Most ominously is perhaps the last point on the list – “saving certain information for your ongoing use of the Services” – suggesting the Yang campaign holds your firstname.lastname@example.org address for perpetuity.
This is all not to suggest that the Yang campaign’s data collection is any more unsettling than others, because this level of data capture is pretty standard across the board for political candidates. Rather, it raises the broader question of how even a simple online competition entry can send your personal information into the digital black hole.
The Yang campaign disclosed Monday that 450,000 people had signed up for the raffle, 405,000 of whom had not registered with Yang 2020 previously, which is a significant data pickup. You may sigh at the gimmick all you want, but it’s a sharp strategy by the campaign: almost half a million emails, and potentially growing his small donor base, are surely worth more to Yang than parting with $120,000. Traditional email database access and targeted advertising would cost infinitely more.