Political campaigns

How did the political campaigns get your phone number? How to stop pesky election messages, calls

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) — More money than ever was spent on electronic advertising during the 2022 election season, and campaign and data privacy experts explain exactly how all those campaigns, action committees politics and advocacy groups got your phone number to send you all those texts.

States like Nevada, where 75% of the congressional delegation is on the ballot, have garnered national interest — and a lot of money from domestic donors. This cash infusion results in a flurry of television, text-to-mail ads straight to your phone.

Whether you are a regular voter or not, how did all these groups get your phone number?

The JoinDeleteMe.com website tracks how much money political interests are spending to get your data this election season — even helping you calculate how much political interests are spending, per person, to get your data. In the quiz, “How much is your vote worth at the upcoming midterm?” Interests spend hundreds of dollars per Nevada, more than residents of other states.

“Between 100 and 200 top data brokers in the United States have profiles on everyone, Nevada citizens and the rest of the states. They’re busy selling these profiles and profile data,” said CEO Rob Shavell of JoinDeleteMe.com. The data comes from all sources of personal data: public records, voting records, in-store purchases, online websites, online shopping, mailing lists, and phone apps, to name a few.

“We downloaded an app, we went to the DMV, we filled out a survey, we bought something from an e-commerce site, which then resold our data. In America today, it’s perfectly legal for them to do this. And we don’t think that’s right. And we don’t think that’s right,” Shavell said.

Based on your data footprint, data brokers help campaigns predict how you can vote and text you accordingly.

How do you stop texting?

The Federal Communications Commission requires campaigns to stop texting as soon as you reply “STOP.”

In Clark County, voters can also visit the voter services page to make their phone number and address private.

Shavell said it’s nearly impossible to track down every source that contains your data, but there are ways to dramatically slow down access. His advices :

Never provide your personal cell phone number. Choose to use a landline or work number instead to avoid data mining and SMS spam.

Contact data brokers personally. JoinDeleteMe has a guide on how to do it yourself; the company and others like it also provide services to help you do this.

Push for privacy laws. California recently passed the Consumer Privacy Rights Act, giving residents power over how data brokers distribute their data. They can advocate for privacy law in their state, like California, Utah, Colorado, Vermont, and a bunch of other states that are considering them. These privacy laws will help them stop the spam, stop the robocalls, because they’ll have the right to say ‘Stop,’ which they don’t have today in their state,” Shavell said.