Obama Organizer App Raises Privacy Fears
We had a feeling someone was going to find the new Obama/Biden app a little troubling. When we first looked at the campaign’s new iPhone app last week in the Data and Targeting Insider we noted that its ability to load voter registration information on your neighbors was “creepy,” although it used publicly available information.
The app generally gives Obama supporters information and localized talking points to leverage in discussions with others. But the app also hopes to get people involved in actively recruiting voters in their vicinity. The Canvass button in the app gives the recruiter a map of their area and populates it with flags for nearby houses, including the first name, last initial, gender and age of the occupant.
A week later after the iPhone release, team Obama issued the Android version for even greater reach. Reuters has finally caught up with the app and has gotten some privacy watchdogs and experts to voice misgivings. A law professor from the University of Chicago, Lior Strahilevitz, tells Reuters: “I think some people view this app as creepy but there is nothing illegal about what they are doing.” The information in the app is aggregating data from various public sources to give users a roster of canvassing prospects in the same way campaigns already give their organizers and volunteers.
But in the case of a publicly available app, this is information that now can get into the hands of anyone with a smartphone. The Obama campaign tells Reuters that it can take action against any wrongdoing associated with the app. In our use of the app, it does not allow the person to access the canvassing function without registering with a name email or Facebook Connect login. But that appears to be the extent of the tracking that the Obama campaign can perform on a canvasser.