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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Campaign Ads in Grocery Deliveries

Ben Christopher at CalMatters:
An extra item may have slipped into your weekly grocery delivery: a campaign ad. It’s a dubious bonus from Instacart, the San Francisco-based tech company that lets customers order groceries by app.

As a valued Instacart customer, we hope you’ll take a moment to learn more about how Prop. 22 supports the best possible shopper experience in California,” read the firm’s email, signed “The Instacart Team.”

California voters are used to being lobbied by corporate behemoths. In props past, the oil industry, Big Pharma, plastic producers and kidney dialysis clinics have spent millions trying to sway voters.

But the gig economy titans bankrolling Proposition 22 — which would allow them to keep treating drivers as independent contractors rather than employees — have a secret weapon: your data profile.

If you’ve ever downloaded the Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Postmates or Doordash apps or registered for their services, the companies possess your phone number, email and credit card info — not to mention your food preferences and travels.

Contact information alone is a goldmine for any election campaign, said Sean McMorris, a policy consultant for transparency watchdog Common Cause. In any other context, “a small nonprofit or the average Joe” behind a campaign would have to shell out thousands of dollars for such a list.

To date Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and Doordash report more than $4.3 million in non-monetary contributions for Prop. 22. That would include email blasts, mass text messaging and within-app campaign material. (As the Los Angeles Times reported, last week Uber customers in California were required to “confirm” a bit of Yes on 22 messaging before hailing their next ride.)