Ad Hawk: Identify Political Ads As They Air


Ad Hawk - The Sunlight Foundation's new mobile app to identify and learn about political ads as they air.Ad Hawk is our new iPhone and Android app that empowers you to identify political ads as they air and immediately learn about the secretive groups spending money to influence your vote. Simply activate the app on your phone when you hear a political ad on TV or radio and we’ll return results within seconds. We paired powerful open-source audio fingerprinting technology to work in concert with our comprehensive data on campaign finance to bring you the best way to stay informed while you endure the onslaught of ads throughout the 2012 election season.

Ad Hawk listens to arbitrary audio coming into your mobile phone when you touch “Identify this Ad” and creates a short digital fingerprint to compare against the database of hundreds of political ads we collect. If the audio fingerprint finds a match, we send you the information about the sponsor of the ad and other details such as:

  • money received or spent
  • where the ad is on the air
  • media reports on the political group or ad
  • places to learn more information

As the 2012 election season heats up, we’ll be tirelessly expanding our database and incorporating more contextual information to give you the best tool to illuminate those clouding the airwaves.

Sunlight identifies new ads by monitoring media reports and the YouTube channels of political groups and campaigns. We research and pair these new ads with Federal Communications Commission data on ad spending, Federal Election Commission data on political contributions, press releases about ad buys and relevant news articles. We collect anonymized location data if users authorize us and hope to better map where ads are appearing around the country.

The idea behind Ad Hawk started at a Philadelphia’s Hacks/Hackers meetup, and the project began at the Random Hacks of Kindness hackathon in December 2011. After a few months of follow-up work, the technology eventually found a home at the Sunlight Foundation for further development and publication. Part of the audio technology is powered by Echoprint, an open source music fingerprint and resolving framework, created and made available by the good folks at The Echo Nest.

We will update the database every day and deliver improvements to the app on an ad hoc basis so please let us know what you think!