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Super PAC App Uses Audio Fingerprinting To Cut Through Election-Ad Spin

Run into a questionable campaign commercial? Hold up Super PAC App to the TV. It’s a Shazam-like app with a political bent that gives you just the facts.

Obama said this; Romney said that. Citizens Concerned About Everything said something else. Slung mud (and shadily funded Super PACs) blur your political view. Cut through the BS with Super PAC App, which delivers information about money spent on a given campaign ad, veracity to claims made, and how other viewers are reacting to the ad.

The project "brings transparency within earshot" during the 2012 U.S. presidential election, according to the developers, Glassy Media. Its technology is similar to the popular song-identifying app Shazam, which allows users to figure out the name and artist of a song that’s playing nearby. It’s a technique that’s being called "audio fingerprinting." But instead of instantaneously tapping into a database of songs and artists that ranges from Minaj to Manilow, Super PAC draws info from an up-to-date pool of election coverage.

The app provides info like "what group stands behind this ad: Is it the official campaign, a Super PAC, or something else," says Dan Siegel, co-founder of Glassy Media, the digital production company behind the app. "Plus how much money they have raised and spent, what claims they’re hoping I’ll believe in this ad, and whether those claims are based on any facts or reason."

Glassy Media, headed by Siegel and co-founder Jennifer Hollett, collaborated with TuneSat, a developer that specializes in audio fingerprinting.

They say that viewers in swing states will be hit especially hard by political ads this election season. The Super PAC App aims to make the process more transparent for voters.

Politicians are "using the Internet to raise cash and push out their message—basically, to get more money to do more yelling," says Siegel. "But there are very few tools we’ve come across that are meant entirely for the ones receiving those messages—the voters, who are being yelled at."

The app’s currently available for iOS devices, ready for free download in the App Store.

Justin Adelson, MIT Sloan

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