New GMail Tool Allows you to Track Political Influence (Video)

Correction: Below, a comment was cited suggesting that the tool copies and keeps a person's inbox contents on Sunlight Foundation servers. The Sunlight Foundation informs us that it does not copy and keep the contents of an Inbox Influence user's Gmail onto Sunlight servers.

June 7, 2011; Source: Sunlight Foundation | The Sunlight Foundation announced Tuesday the launch of Inbox Influence, a Gmail tool that instantly shows you the political giving and lobbying history of the people and organizations mentioned in emails you receive. Watch this video explaination:

The tool seems particularly compelling when you find your inbox full of mass e-mails from political fundraisers, corporate correspondence, or semi-junk mail (e-mail lists that you may find yourself on but can’t remember how you got there. The intent of the tool is to help you quickly follow the money and see who is trying to influence you.

The tool seems less compelling and a bit more creepy when you consider that a lot of your inbox is full of correspondence from friends, family, and acquaintances who may not enjoy the fact that you know which groups they may or may not support.

Judging by many of the comments on the tech website, boingboing, some people are weary of that much personal data, albeit publicly available, being managed by Google. Here’s a sample:

#1 • 2:29 PM, Jun 7 • I like it. I can use this to make sure that I only associate with people that have the same political leanings as myself. That way I can be confident that I only hear things that I already agree with.

#2 • 2:30 PM, Jun 7 • A plugin that copies all my mail to someone else's server, eh? What could possibly go wrong?

#3 • 2:41 PM, Jun 7 • How do you uninstall this?

—Aaron Lester