How Echoprint Is Making Political Ads Transparent

August 24, 2012

When we announced Echoprint, the world’s first open-source audio fingerprinting engine, we knew it would help developers build the ability to recognize songs into apps, but we never suspected that it would play a role in political transparency too. That’s exactly what it is doing, much to our surprise.

Ad Hawk, a free app for iPhone and Android from the Sunlight Foundation, allows television viewers to identify any American political advertisement as it airs, by fingerprinting its audio with Echoprint. Then, the app tells the viewer exactly who funded the advertisement.

No longer can political advertisers hide behind a cloak of anonymity. Ad Hawk, powered by Echoprint, is there.

Once the app identifies the add, it tells the viewer not only who funded it…

…but also how much the organization has spent; how much cash it still has; where the ad is airing; the organization’s ratio between positive and negative advertising; and whether its ads have targeted Democrats or Republicans:

In order to pull off this politically-clarifying magic, The Sunlight Foundation monitors media reports and YouTube for new advertisements, then adds their audio fingerprints to the Echoprint audio fingerprinting database. The app then references that database to identify the advertisement.

The Sunlight Foundation is “a non-partisan non-profit that uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable.” We’re pleased that Echoprint is making their job a little easier.

(Oddly, this isn’t the first time our technology has gotten tangled up with politics. Our new Taste Profiles technology offers musical insights regarding Democrats and Republicans.)