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Sunlight Foundation Debuts Ad Hawk App for iPhone and Android

Instantly identify who is paying for the political ads you hear on TV and the radio


August 22, 2012

Contact: Liz Bartolomeo 202-742-1520 x226

WASHINGTON, DC — The Sunlight Foundation today debuts a new mobile app to help voters better know who is buying political ads this election year. Ad Hawk, available for iPhone and Android, listens to campaign, super PAC and issue ads on the TV or radio and then lists information about who placed the ads, their campaign finance profile and other information. The app is available as a free download in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Ad Hawk is simple to use: just listen, identify and learn. When you see a political ad on TV or hear one on the radio, open the app to have Ad Hawk start listening to the ad. In less than 30 seconds, Ad Hawk will create an audio fingerprint and start searching our database for a match. We identify new ads by monitoring media reports and the YouTube channels of political groups and campaigns. When Ad Hawk finds a match, users will get information on their phone about how much money the ad’s sponsor received or spent, where the ad is on the air and media reports about the candidate or political group.

“These days, our smart phones are always within reach. But instead of checking your texts or identifying a song on the radio, you can now use them the moment you hear or see a political ad,” said Tom Lee, Sunlight Labs Director. “Ad Hawk uses the audio fingerprinting technology many are already familiar with to inform citizens about who is spending money to influence their votes.”

In the first presidential election year since the Citizens United ruling, voters are experiencing a near-constant deluge of political ads. The campaigns of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent $332 million on ads according to the Washington Post. Sunlight calculated that congressional campaigns spent more than $69 million so far this year on advertising. And super PAC spending continues to climb with nearly $199 million reported to date.

Sunlight Labs developed Ad Hawk and its origins are with Hacks/Hackers Philly and the Random Hacks of Kindness hackathon. The app uses audio technology from Echoprint, an open source music fingerprint and resolving framework. Read more about Ad Hawk on the Sunlight blog.

A number of other free mobile apps are available from Sunlight, including Congress and Upwardly Mobile. Learn more about and download them here.

The Sunlight Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit that uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable. Visit to learn more about Sunlight’s projects, including and