EMAIL from the Sunlight Foundation
August 23, 2012

Recently, we unveiled Ad Hawk, our new, free app for iPhone and Android phones. We built it with you in mind, to empower you to identify political ads as they air and immediately learn about who is behind them.

Download Ad Hawk today []

Want to know who is spending money to influence your vote? Ad Hawk provides valuable contextual information about the candidate, super PAC and issues ads airing on TV and radio this election year.

Ad Hawk is simple to use: just listen, identify and learn. When you see a political ad on TV or YouTube or hear one on the radio, open the app to have Ad Hawk listen to the ad. In less than 30 seconds, Ad Hawk tell you 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.

Watch and share a video about Ad Hawk []

The stealthy wealthy trying to influence your vote try to hide behind innocuous-sounding names that obscure their true motives, but with Ad Hawk, you can suss them out and be a more informed voter.

We hope you have as much fun using Ad Hawk as we had building it.

Thanks and be sure to tell your friends,
Tom, Gab and the rest of the Sunlight crew


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. It is powered by Echoprint, an open source music fingerprint and resolving framework, created and made available by the good folks at The Echo Nest.


When you press the "Identify this ad" button, Ad Hawk starts listening to the audio coming into your mobile phone. The app 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 collected in our database 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 and places to find more information.

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. With user permission, we collect anonymized location data to better map where ads are airing around the country.

Data Sources:

Ad Hawk relies on multiple data sources to provide you information on the ads you see. Much of the data originally comes from the federal government and would be greatly improved with a centralized, searchable and sortable database of political ads. Here is how we collect the data: