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Politics on the Square

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, March 19 2010

Credit: SquareUp.com

TechCrunch reports that Square, the cell-phone based payment processor, is being used by at least two local political candidates to fundraise at events, as part of the service's beta rollout. (via Tech Republican) TechCrunch's commentators are appropriately skeptical. Aren't trend stories required by some higher power to have at least three examples? But since it's Friday, let's go ahead and indulge in a little harmless speculation about what the potential of Square might be in politics.

Having gotten a chance to play with an early version of Square, we can report that the whole process has been engineered, by Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, to be as easy as possible. The user experience is simple, for sure. But perhaps more importantly for Square users, Dorsey and his team have spent considerable energy streamlining the payment collector's experience on the backend, particular when it comes to engaging with a bank and payment processor. Think about the possibility of a candidate or advocacy group, just starting out, being able to carry a Square-enabled phone door-to-door, collecting small payments.

As TechCrunch notes, though, there's something hanging up Square's usage in campaign politics, and it's something that has also proven to be a hurdle in text-message fundraising too -- the ability to collecting donor information in the way the law requires. But TC reports that team Square is working on that:

[...] Dorsey says that they are releasing Square’s API to allow fundraisers to build additional applications on top of Square, where they could input all of the necessary data. Once this is enabled, Square will allows fundraisers to eliminate paper collection and payments all together.