A conservative analytics firm apparently scraped a huge trove of Reddit data as part of its voter-targeting efforts. As reported by Gizmodo, GOP-contracted company Deep Root Analytics accidentally put a folder titled “reddit” on a publicly accessible web server along with other internal records, which cyber risk analyst Chris Vickery discovered last week. It contains 170GB of data from several subreddits, but no indication of how Deep Root might be using the information.
The subreddits in question range from innocuous to controversial. One was the banned subreddit r/fatpeoplehate, which Gizmodo speculates was picked for its connection to Trump fans — a FiveThirtyEight analysis of r/The_Donald members found that outside explicitly political subreddits, these users overlapped most strongly with r/fatpeoplehate members. But Deep Root also collected information from mountain-biking and Spanish-speaking subreddits, which have no such connection.
Deep Root leaked profiles of nearly 200 million potential voters as well, and it’s possible that it was trying to match names to Reddit profiles — which would give them a deep look at the preferences of specific voters. Gizmodo notes that the Obama campaign matched voter records with Facebook profiles, but it’s unclear that someone could do the same with Reddit, where few people operate under their real names. The company could also simply be looking for correlations in Reddit users’ interests, which could help predict which messages will resonate with specific categories of voters. All we can say for sure from this leak is that political analysts are watching Reddit — which, given its prominence during the election, isn’t a surprise.