'No' camp launches Freedom Team app to direct doorknockers to undecided voters' homes

Same-sex marriage opponents have launched a phone application giving campaigners "turn by turn" directions to undecided voters' homes, in what it describes as an unprecedented move in Australian political campaigning.

The app was developed by the American company Political Social Media LLC, trading as uCampaign, which built apps for Donald Trump's presidential campaign, Brexit's "Vote Leave" and the powerful National Rifle Association.

Among the features of the "Freedom Team" app, launched Wednesday evening, is a tool that maps the home addresses of people whom the Coalition for Marriage says have not yet engaged with the campaign.

"The app will provide turn by turn directions to your nearest neighbour who is yet to hear from the campaign," the Coalition told supporters in an email. "And it will give you talking points for when you get to the door."

The design means people's home addresses are supplied to thousands of potential doorknockers. After visiting the home, users can mark the resident as "not home", "refused", "bad info" or "survey", indicating they have been interviewed.

It was not clear how the list of addresses was generated. The Coalition for Marriage said the data it used came from the Australian census and the government's freely available Geocoded National Address File.

The app was clunky when tested on Thursday. Fairfax Media was able to mark a resident as "not home" or "refused" without actually travelling to the address, although the app required the user to be within 18 yards (16 metres) of the home to actually commence a "survey" (the app measures distance in imperial units including yards and miles).

As with uCampaign's products in the US, the Freedom Team app attempts to "gamify" the campaign by creating a social network and allocating "action points" to users for each activity or referral they undertake.

Fairfax Media sought a phone interview with the Coalition for Marriage but received a written response which said the group was "leaving no stone unturned" in its efforts to reach millions of Australians.

"Our campaign uses publicly available, open source data to map out our field campaign so our army of Freedom Team volunteers can speak to as many as people in the short time we have," said spokeswoman Monica Doumit.

"With so many fundamental freedoms on the line, we have no alternative but to run the most technologically sophisticated campaign in Australian history to ensure those freedoms are protected."

Both sides of the same-sex marriage debate have undertaken activities that some deemed to be invasive. The "yes" campaign sent out text messages to mobiles reminding people to vote, while Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi has paid for approximately 1 million robocalls.

The Freedom Team has created a similar apps for the NRA-ILA: National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, the group's lobbying arm. The app is used by supporters of gun rights in the US, including those pushing for the legalisation of silencers and permitless carry provisions.

The uCampaign website lists 12 featured clients including the UK Tories, US senator Rand Paul, Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina and the Australian Christian Lobby, which is linked to the Coalition for Marriage.

Australians who try to download the Freedom Team app are told the developer's website is freedomteam.com.au - which exists but has no content. But the seller is listed as Political Social Media LLC, also known as uCampaign, headquartered in the US state of Virginia.

Australians who sign up to the Coalition for Marriage app are also liable to have their data shared with third parties. According to the app's privacy notice, any personal information provided by users may be shared with other organisations, groups, causes, campaigns and clients "that we believe have similar viewpoints, principles or objectives as us".

Privacy experts in the US raised concerns about uCampaign's Trump app last year. American Civil Liberties told NBC News: "It's not just to pay with your privacy, but to sell out your friends and colleagues who are in your contact list."

Know more? michael.koziol@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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The story 'No' camp launches Freedom Team app to direct doorknockers to undecided voters' homes first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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