Tue. Aug 20th, 2019

Federal election campaign note shared through Bluetooth on a very crowdy Melbourne train

A commuter on a peak-hour Melbourne train whose phone had bluetooth switched on has been airdropped campaign material for Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party from an anonymous sender, a practice one marketing expert says will alienate voters.

AirDrop allows iPhone users to share content — often large files — with people close enough to access their bluetooth network. You must be physically close enough to someone’s phone to use the technology — usually just a few metres.

Anna was taking the Sandringham line into the city and reading the news on her phone when an AirDrop message popped up.

Anna said she could not figure out who was sharing the material, but found the experience unsettling.

“It felt a bit creepy and intrusive. It didn’t say whose iPhone it was, it just said ‘iPhone’ wants to share this with you,” she said.

“It felt a bit sneaky and underhanded.

“It just felt like, is someone watching me? And do they know which device of the many in the carriage is mine, or are they just sending this to everyone they can?”

She submitted the screenshot to the ABC’s Hidden Campaign — a project tracking political messaging in the election campaign — for investigation.

She said she turned on bluetooth so she could sync with other personal devices like her fitbit, and though she knew she could restrict the settings, she hadn’t thought to do so.

The picture appears to be one that was shared to the Conservative Nationals Party’s Facebook account, before that account was taken down.

In that iteration, it is attributed to Fraser Anning.

A spokesman for Mr Anning said it was not a practice that was being directed by his head office.

This sort of tactic can ‘kill trust’

Australian National University political marketing expert Dr Andrew Hughes said this was not good technology for a party to adopt in order to win votes.

“It’s a scary precedent, because it obviously means [they’re] tracking you pretty effectively, or just through your device, which would scare a lot of people,” he said.

“I just don’t know it’s going to work for that reason. If people feel they’ve had their privacy intruded [on] by that level of technology.

“To certainly have a message appear on your phone out of the blue … that’s really going to make you hate the brand, not like it, and not vote for them that’s for sure.”

He said the anonymity combined with proximity would upset people.