Top Democrat campaigns and party committees were accidentally gifted the ability to polish their midterm ads after a snafu by social media giant Snap granted them access to a fount of Republican voter data, Axios reports.
While there's no indication that Snap was aware of or enabled the data sharing, the slip-up highlights the complexities of handling the large batches of voter data that have become highly sought after political commodities.
The glitch impacted records maintained by Democrat and GOP data firms. However, Democrat political groups tapped into the information much more than Republicans, according to Axios.
Frequently relying on data brokers that collect information on things like voters' activities, interests, and spending habits, political advertisers can target their ads to specific groups on Snap and other social media sites.
Several Democrat and progressive organizations were able to hone their ads on Snap using data held by the GOP-associated firm i360, Snap's political ad archive revealed.
The company has ties to billionaire Charles Koch's political and humanitarian network, according to Axios.
The Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams' gubernatorial campaign reportedly all used i360 data in targeted Snapchat ads.
Axios reports that there's no evidence that any of the advertisers were aware they were using i360 data or exploited it beyond normal ad targeting.
The Republican data firm and its Democrat counterpart, TargetSmart, provide other advertisers on the platform with data but availability is limited to preapproved, allied organizations.
Snap told Axios an internal oversight allowed political opponents to use data from both companies.
"Unfortunately, due to an internal mistake, we didn't follow this usual process — which resulted in these two companies' services being used by advertisers outside of the process, impacting a small number of ads," a Snap spokesperson told Axios. "We take full responsibility for this mistake, and as soon as we became aware of it, we notified the two Democratic and Republican vendors who were equally impacted, and took action to correct the issue. We are also taking steps to ensure this doesn't happen again."
TargetSmart data was reportedly used to optimize ads from conservative media outlet The Daily Wire.
The Snap spokesperson emphasized that the advertisers that were accidentally given access to the voter data were not given access to either i360 or TargetSmart's core data or to any Snapchat user information.
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