Smartphone app for presidential campaigns raises privacy concerns

by: Holly Maynard Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Presidential campaigns have turned to smartphone applications to reach more voters.

However, Eyewitness News found out those apps are so advanced, personal information is out there for anyone to find.

Channel 9 showed the President Barack Obama voter app to voters in Charlotte.

It uses Google maps to identify a person's location and then finds registered Democrats in the area with their address, age and gender.

Eyewitness News showed the application to voter Ruth Stilwell.

"That's disturbing. That somebody could get that much information about me that's readily available to anybody, now that does disturb me," she said.

The Obama for America app was created in part for volunteers who canvass neighborhoods, but anyone can download it for free.

Channel 9 also showed it to residents like Susan Keesler.

"Oh my goodness! You feel like you're stalking people," Keesler said.

Keesler said she doesn't mind people knowing she's a Democrat, but she's not so sure about others.

"I mean, I think politics and religion are those two subjects that some people just don't like to share with other people," she said.

Channel 9 asked the Obama campaign about these privacy concerns. A representative said everything used in the app is public information that people can get by walking into a campaign office or searching online.

"Well, this is so much easier. No one's going to take that time to do that," Keesler said.

Dr. Michael Bitzer, a political science professor at Catawba College, said the app is effective and important for the Obama campaign.

He said so far that campaign is the only one using an app this advanced.

"It will probably be widely used as cellphone technology, smartphone technology continues to advance," Bitzer said.

The Obama campaign said it is committed to protecting privacy. There have been no reports of people using the app inappropriately, but if the campaign becomes aware of any concerns about inappropriate use, it will alert the authorities.