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Obama Campaign Debuts Mobile Canvassing App

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Tuesday, July 31 2012

President Barack Obama's re-election campaign released an upgraded version of a canvassing iPhone app Tuesday that includes detailed voter data and the history of a household being canvassed.

The feature-rich app brings most aspects of a field office to the phone for volunteers, and is an upgrade of the 2010 canvassing app created by Organizing for America. The previous app did not contain the voter profiles, although the Dashboard section of the Obama campaign's web site, which is optimized for mobile devices, does.

Obama's Digital Director Teddy Goff told supporters Tuesday:

"With the new app, you can easily find local volunteer events near you, get a list of voters to talk to in your neighborhood, and access all the information you need to spread the word: from President Obama's record to state-specific voting info. You can also stay up to date with breaking news, which you can instantly share with friends and family using Facebook, Twitter, email, and text messaging"

The app uses the phone's location awareness to immediately load relevant state-related information to the "info" section. Canvassers can use the information to have a handful of statistics to share with people they contact. For example, hitting "info" gives me a a bunch of stats relevant to healthcare, job growth, energy production and tax policy in California. Among other things, for example, the section on healthcare tells me that 16 million people in California will no longer be denied insurance as a result of a pre-existing condition.

Privacy advocate Shaun Dakin, CEO and Founder of the nonprofitNational Political Do Not Contact Registry, called the inclusion of the voter information on the app a "privacy fail."

But if that's the case, it's a privacy failing of the current legal regime that makes voter registration information public, and which multiple companies have used to create apps, which generally mash up voter information with other publicly-available information to create detailed voter dossiers.

In the "Take Action" section, the app provides links to its Voter Registration page on the web, and to Dashboard. Pressing "Canvas" takes you to a map where volunteers can load up the locations of voters in their vicinity. The map shows homes that are marked with blue flags, the name of individuals, and a tally that says X/X people canvassed. It also lists age, gender and political affiliation of those individuals, and whether they've been contacted by someone on the campaign already.

Of course, there's an "Events" section where volunteers can RSVP for events like local field office phone banking by touching a red "RSVP" button. That event can then be shared with friends via Twitter, Facebook, text message or e-mail.

There's also a news feed of featured current messaging from the campaign and links to the campaign's donation pages on the Web.

With the Obama app, all that information is packaged and presented on the iPhone so that volunteers can literally access it at the touch of a fingertip.

with Nataliya Nedzhvetskaya