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ran, and lost, a race for U.S. Congress as a Democrat. “We worked back and forth like any early stage company,” Kopser says. “They were working on building the tools, and we were [providing feedback like], ‘It needs to be more like this.’ ”
To be sure, privacy concerns related to using voters’ social media information have been a top discussion topic since Trump’s victory in 2016, after which it was revealed that Russian attackers used millions of Facebook profiles that had been obtained by a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica. The hackers used that data to target voters with false and divisive ads and messages.
(The Trump campaign has downplayed any role Cambridge played in his victory, and campaign officials have been adamant about how valuable its own Facebook advertising was to its victory.)
Blue Squad only gets users’ data with their permission, Deysarkar says. “A couple of people brought [the Facebook scandal] up, but people are more excited about using their data to help progressives win,” he says. “On top of that, each user always has full control of the data and can remove it any time.”
Deysarkar declined to name campaigns Blue Squad is currently working with.
To kick things off, Blue Squad is hosting an event Friday on the technology of politics, just as Austin welcomes this year’s attendees for South by Southwest, the annual business and media conference. Along with tech leaders like Jeff Reichman (who will talk about effective ways to use public data), individuals such as former Texas Sen. (and gubernatorial candidate) Wendy Davis, the Democratic National Committee’s Kat Atwater, and others are scheduled to represent the political arena.
Kopser, who will speak at the Friday event, is now helping Blue Squad as an advisor. “From my two years on the campaign trail, I saw that the barriers to entry for so many people, that should be running for office, are so high,” he told Xconomy in a phone interview. “The thing that seems so obvious in the tech work, the networking analysis, didn’t exist in the political world.”
Blue Squad has automated what Kopser says his campaign was doing manually by bringing in commercially available off-the-shelf tools and combining them into one software platform. “Using these tools—reducing the time that a candidate is spending in calls with donors, calling people that aren’t even necessarily good targets”—will entice additional qualified people to seek political office, he says.