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Political Billboards Now Scanning Your Face to Analyze Your Reaction – Seriously


2016 presidential candidates have a new option in their quest to sway voters. “Neuropolitics” is the attempt to read your mind by scanning facial expressions and feeding them into an algorithm. Biofeedback—including heart rate, eye movements, and skin conditions—can  also be captured and used for political purposes and, perhaps one day, for government purposes.

The New York Times describes a recent example in Mexico City, where a Congressional candidate hired a company to deploy a digital billboard with a hidden camera. The billboard advertised for the candidate, but also scanned faces so the campaign could analyze facial expressions and tweak their message.

The technology has been used by politicians in several other countries, including Mexico, Poland, Colombia, and Turkey. The “taboo” that once characterized its use in the U.S. could vanish in the 2016 elections.

David Plouffe, President Obama’s former campaign manager, said the tools “would be new ground for political campaigns.”

Mr. Plouffe added: “The richness of this data compared to what is gathered today in testing ads or evaluating speeches and debates, which is the trusty old dial test and primitive qualitative methods, is hard to comprehend. It gets more to emotion, intensity and a more complex understanding of how people are reacting.”

But “the horrendous dial ratings on the bottom of televised presidential debates,” he said, referring to the real-time reactions of undecided voters shown on the television screen, “may now be replaced with the only thing worse: sweat, eye and cardiac monitoring measurements of key voter segments.”

Francisco Olvera Ruiz, the governor of the Mexican state of Hidalgo, is a big believer in using the technology for elections and government programs, saying, “In my government, we have utilized a variety of research tools and opinion studies to evaluate the efficacy of our governmental programs, communications and messages. Neuroscience research [is] especially valuable because it has allowed us to discover with more precision and objectivity what people think, perceive and feel.