How President Obama Is Using Your Address

I’m a very pro-transparency type of guy in most respects. However, I’m also practical. For example, I’m very nervous about publicly available donation tracking information because it means I can’t quietly support any candidate. There is always a chance that someone will find out who I supported and yell at me / egg my house / key my car.

With great power comes great responsibility and all that jazz.

Which is why I’m writing this post. I mostly like Mitt Romney for president (it’s a long story, buy me a beer and maybe I’ll tell you). But if I gave him my address for volunteer purposes or with any kind of donation and he turned around and broadcast my address to the world, I’m be pretty angry.

And that is exactly that President Obama has apparently done. With the new Obama campaign iPhone app, I can see who exactly in my neighborhood has their address (for whatever reason) registered with the Obama campaign. And I think it is important to let these people know exactly what has happened to this information. Call it “transparency”.

Note: DO NOT harass these people. We don’t know exactly where these addresses came from, but I am 90% sure that it did not come from public donation data. Even if it did, that doesn’t matter. This is about letting people know that their information is public for the world to see, not about giving them crap for their political views (which, let me say again, we don’t know).

Step 1

Download President Obama’s campaign iPhone app.

Step 2

Open app

Step 3

Tap the “Action” tab.

Step 4

Tap “Canvass”

Step 5

Log in or sign up for a new account (this will not place your address on the map, the sign up requires only a valid email address).

Step 6

Find all the people in your area that the Obama team wants you to visit.

Step 7

Take a picture of the map with their address on it (press the power button and the square button at the same time on your iPhone).

Step 8

Drop that image into this file. The text reads:


I’m a concerned neighbor.

I got this address from the Obama campaign’s iPhone app. If you’ve ever given money or volunteer information to President Obama, he probably has your name and address. And he has made it publically available for anyone with an iPhone.

If this bothers you, you might want to contact his campaign and ask them to not share your information with people like me (even though I’m super nice).

Step 9

Print file (10-25 copies should do it).

Step 10

Tape fliers to all the doors on that list.

My goal here is not to bash President Obama. Rest assured if the Romney campaign did something similar I would be beating the hell out of them on this issue too.

This information may seem very public and therefore very harmless to political wonk programmers, but I can assure you that the people who gave their addresses

expected that information to be used this way.


Some have complained that the Obama is only using publically available data, so my problem shouldn’t be with him, it should be with campaign finance laws. May I therefore submit the following into evidence: Here is a map of who contributed to Democratic campaigns in 2008 (blue dots indicate financial contributions during the 2008 campaign):

And here is the exact same area map pulled from the Obama app

With this, I would suggest the Obama app is not using public contribution data, but instead using data from their own supporter database.


  1. Josh hug says:

    Isn’t the point of canvassing is to convince non-voters to vote your way and change opinions of those that are changeable but leaning against you? Thus, I’d be pretty certain they aren’t getting these addresses from campaign finace dumps. Rather I’d guess they are targeting non registered addresses And profiles of people that they think will vote for him. Who knows what data they are licensing to pull this off but it is truly scary how advanced thier voter db is. (and it is scary what types of data can be bought) It is what allows them to thumb their knows at the center and just focus on their “base issues.”

    I’m not sure what the solution is… The micro targeting is only going to become more advanced. They probably need to disclose what data they are licensing for such purposes? I would ordinarily be in favor of more transparent data (donations less than 200 etc). But the idea that the ruling powers are leveraging this data to maintain power is super scary….

  2. Suzibasterd says:

    You could also get a little personal with each letter and add their name to the note you post since Obama has been kind enough to provide the first name and last initial of each donor. More work, but infinitely more effective.

  3. Suzibasterd says:

    Interestingly enough, my husband also downloaded the app an got a different set of results. They’re farther from our house and NONE of the results are duplicates.

  4. Kind of a tough call. Once you give money to any charity they keep your name and ask for more. Clearly it is standard practice to maintain a database of names and addresses like that. So who has access to that database? Obviously the people working for the charity do. Many charities use volunteers, so the people with access could include anyone. The difference here is that the campaign is crowdsourcing, trying to scale up the volunteerism, which effectively gives everyone access like that. Definitely in a gray area. I can’t fault them for not seeing a problem, but it seems like there ought to be some kind of limitation here. Either an opt-in on the addresses or a bit more restriction on just who gets to be a volunteer.

  5. FU#K OBAMA says:

    The O’bots will know what house to start harassing this fall….

    Watchout for the Obot Brownshirts as they come to to demand tribute to the ‘Dear Leader’

  6. Butch Warner says:

    Actually, this is EXACTLY the way I hoped the app would work. It will be the brains of the Obsma supporters(who tend to have IQ’s about 10 points higher than Romney people) that will counteract the right-wing money, the right is waging a war against women and poor people, and we need to do what we can.

    Moreover, I can’t imagine a Romney supporter actually understanding what you just wrote.

  7. Butch Warner says:

    Sorry about the run-on sentence. Doesn’t lend much credence to my hypothesis.

  8. Richard Saunders says:

    We understand your agenda, and we CAN spell our candidate’s name correctly.

  9. Czar H says:

    Wow, you did great inserting the typical blind liberal rant, and gave us the double whammy with the assault on all conservative’s intelligence. No one will think twice about your lack of grammar or spelling, because you were just so excited to be the first blind Obama warrior to spout your rhetoric BS. Congrats! We’re all so happy for you. Don’t forget to grab your kool-aid as you’re walking the door.

  10. Danie Lewis says:

    Butch Warner wrote “…Obsma supporters(who tend to have IQ’s about 10 points higher than Romney people)…”

    It seems that supporters of Obama can do is spew misinformation and make themselves look like idiots. Unlike you Butch Warner, I provided an excellent source for my assertion proving it to be true.

  11. Ike says:

    For clarification, is the app giving you names of donors, or the addresses of those who are undecided?

    Still spooky, though.

  12. Russ Nelson says:

    My guess is that they are people who *didn’t* donate, and are more likely just lists of addresses. The purpose of the app is to ensure that Obama supporters don’t go harassing the same people over and over, but instead are assigned a unique set of people to hassle.

  13. Jim Harper says:

    I assumed this data was from voter rolls, not donation records, and the ProPublica write-up suggests that’s the case. Quoting an Obama campaign official: “this information about registered voters is available and easily accessible to the public.”

    Still don’t know for sure, but if people want to direct their anger/concern/indifference accurately, it matters.

  14. FYI – I just went to the Board of Elections web site for my area. I was able to download a list of thousands of people in my small town, and see name, address, party, when registered, etc. etc. All public info.

  15. chris says:

    the dirty truth is the point of canvassing is raise money my friend.

  16. bill says:

    guys… sarcasm much?

  17. […] How President Obama Is Using Your Address […]

  18. Ron says:

    Josh, I “was” in favor of more transparency for donations but, someone made a great point about this in a meeting i was in.

    Would I want thugs from the apposing party starting a occupy movement on your lawn? Politics is getting ugly, and some people will stop at nothing to get you to stop supporting an opponent.

  19. A realist says:

    This looks more like targeted marketing and effective campaigning than an invasion of privacy or misuse of public data. The number of people using this app to key cars and egg houses is probably in the single digits.

  20. Kay B. Day says:

    Didn’t they announce these people were donors? Pretty sure they did. I think it’s totally creepy. It’s sort of like putting a virtual sign in your yard for that candidate. And just imagine if there’re any old addies on there–you might be pegged a Dem donor even if you’re not. You have to hand it to the Dems for coming up with something like that, but I’d want to be asked before my name was put on any public type of list for a politico. best, KBD

    P.S. With your numerical talents, had you thought to come up with a total amount of money the federal government had just burned through due to stupidity? GSA, SSA (conference a year or so ago), Ag (2 million buck intern), ITIN fraud (I think that was around $4 billion when I first wrote about it a long while ago).

  21. […] Math | How President Obama Is Using Your Address I’m a very pro-transparency type of guy in most respects. However, I’m also practical. For […]

  22. MC says:

    you are the typical psuedo intellectual muppet that the left depends on. only people that “think” the way you do could be as intelligent as you. still living at home working on that liberal arts degree? Mommy says dinner is ready, better get going!

  23. Eric says:

    I can tell you, at least in Texas, I can get a voter registration list for everyone registered to vote in my county. I can also get an up to the day list of all those people who have voted in early voting. Not who they vote for but that they have voted. A little effort and I can figure out who I need to call to get to the polls and which people I need to avoid (i.e. potentially vote for an opponent.)

    I can do this by tying the list to contributions made in previous elections either via the state or federal databases and create a canvas list of “potential friends” of the candidate I’m working for.

  24. Jason says:

    First, everyone is slathering about who the names and flags are… we know it is NOT a list of campaign donors. It also doesn’t appear to be a just list of registered D’s. It may very well be a random list of people in your neighborhood – and you get a small slice of it when you use the app. (Makes perfect sense for “canvasing”.)

    You have an obligation to the truth. Find out the truth first, then you can have a meaningful discussion about the truth. Your comments about how the Obama camp is using the data are speculative at best, misplaced at worst.

    A donation to the Romney (or any other candidate), or registering as a Republican makes your information similarly available. If you like, I could make an app for that. As you’ve shown, there already exists websites for pulling up campaign donors on maps.

    I agree that it’s creepy, but it really has nothing to do with a specific campaign or a party. Our data is out there – and you can bet the R’s *wish* they had this app. (That’s not an endorsement of D’s – it’s recognition of the power of this database.) Welcome to the 21st century.

  25. Jason says:

    Also, you should probably link to the source that broke the story…

  26. Jason says:

    This is nothing new and certainly not unique to Obama or democrats. I work for a company that designs mobile canvassing apps for campaigns, starting more than two years ago. And there were websites (not mobile) doing this going back 8 years. Most of the data comes from public information (voting records along with address data are easily available in many states), however data volunteered by supporters is also used in some cases.