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Personal Data and Political Influence in Malaysia

Until Malaysia's most recent election in May 2018, the ruling party – Barisan Nasional (BN), a race-based coalition dominated by Umno, a Malay nationalist party – had not lost a single general election since the country achieved its independence from Britain in 1957. But BN's power has been challenged in recent years. In 2008, BN lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament, and in 2013, the party lost the popular vote but remained in power due to an electoral system weighted in favour of rural, pro-BN seats.

Tactical Tech partnered with Boo Su-Lyn to explore the acquisition, analysis and application of personal data in the context of political campaigning in the lead-up to Malaysia’s 2018 general election. Boo is an assistant news editor and columnist with Malay Mail, a Malaysian news outlet. The Kuala Lumpur-based journalist is the author of Unapologetic, a non-fiction book that pushes the case for individual empowerment, secularism and civil liberties; and co-founder of BEBAS, a movement of young people that advocates equality, secularism and an end to discrimination. Boo conducted first-hand interviews and research for this report. She has worked in the media industry since 2010 and reports regularly on national politics and current affairs in Malaysia.

This article is published as part of The Influence Industry - a series looking at the use of data in political campaigning and elections.