A new campaign app for iPhone – launched by the Obama for President Campaign in the US – is causing concern among lobbyists, who point to a number of privacy issues with the app and its potential for misuse.
While the app was developed by campaign staff for the purpose of locating, registering and asking local Democratic voters for money, it can be accessed by anyone according to a report by Cult of Mac.
The free download enables users to view public information on unregistered US voters, revealing details of their first name and last initial, gender, age and street address. It can also be used to find political events nearby, and post announcements to Twitter and Facebook.
While the Obama campaign wants to utilise the app as a tool to get voters registered and aid the drive to sign more people up to the Democratic party ahead of the coming election, the information that it provides could be accessed for the purpose of malicious use.
“The concern is making it available to people who may have bad intent and that fear could deter people from giving money” or, indeed, getting involved in the political drive in any capacity, explains Center for Democracy and Technology’s a consumer privacy expert, Justin Brookman.
But the Obama campaign says that the app is legal and the public information that it provides does not breach any privacy rights.
“They are aggregating a whole bunch of public records and using location-aware mapping technology,” said University of Chicago’s Law Professor, Lior Strahilevitz .
“If a corporation or a political campaign wants to use that information and disseminate it in a useful way, there is no violation of American privacy laws.”
Obama opponent and Republican candidate Mitt Romney also has a campaign app, albeit slightly different to the Democrat version. The Republican app acts as a mobile information service, notifying supporters about the party’s election, policies and members .
Increasingly, the political scene in the US and internationally is employing the use of technology to reach its constituents and ramp up election campaigns in a bid to secure more voters. Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, for example, has built a large following of supporters on Twitter, tweeting regularly and interacting with his followers.
What do you think – does Obama’s new campaign app present a risk to Democratic voters in the US? Let us know in the comments field below.