Candidates turn to Facebook games as campaign tactic to collect information
by Eric Kuhn

Collecting data on likely voters is not all fun and games, but candidates are creating games on Facebook to collect constituent’s e-mails and critical information.

“Facebook games are absolutely underrated in the political space,” said Vincent Harris, the CEO of Harris Media, a digital advocacy firm that creates Facebook games for the campaigns. “While users are spending hours a day on Facebook, gaming allows them another medium to interact with and learn about candidates while the campaign is collecting critical data points on the user.”

“We are capturing names and e-mails (and other data is available) on every user, information that is critical to running a successful online campaign,” Harris wrote to CNN in an e-mail.

Jim Keet, running for the Governor of Arkansas against incumbent Gov. Mike Beebe launched a Facebook game called “Big Spending Beebe.” The game is a parody of the Price is Right, and has Governor Beebe as a contestant. The user is asked to bid on items that he has purchased as Governor, such as “What did the taxpayers spend on Gov. Beebe’s new King Air jet?” The user finds out the correct bid after entering their bid. At the end users are asked to invite their friends to play the game, and a note with a link is published to the user’s newsfeed telling their friends that they “just played the game.”

When users sign up to play the game, they are notified that the campaign will take their “basic information,” which includes the users name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and “any other information I’ve shared with everyone.” In order to play, the user must also give the campaign permission to send e-emails and allow the campaign permission to “post status messages, notes, photos, and videos” to the user’s Facebook wall.

Another Facebook game was created by Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott’s campaign called “Rick Scott Card Game.” In this game the user has the ability to pick and order their preferred job-creating solutions from Rick Scott’s “7-7-7 jobs plan.” Users can drag and drop cards, which display the seven points of his plan, and rank which points they like better. A simple game that allows users to know what Scott’s job creating policies are, while the campaign simultaneously receives feedback about what parts of the plan are most popular.

In the Vermont Governor’s race, current lieutenant governor Brian Dubie has created a Facebook game of Three Card Monty. A campaign sticker or yard sign is placed under a virtual cup and the player needs to choose where the sticker or sign is after being shuffled. If the Facebook user wins, they are sent the yard sign or sticker.

Facebook games came under fire Monday with a Wall Street Journal report that popular applications have been sending personal information to advertisers.

When CNN asked Harris, who created the games for Scott and Beebe, if he was concerned about the potential backlash for such information gathering around his games, he said, “No. Not at all. You accept the terms.”