Inbox Influence: plugin reveals corporate money behind the emails in your inbox

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez,

Today the Sunlight Foundation launched Inbox Influence, a tool for Gmail that instantly shows you the political giving and lobbying history of the people and organizations mentioned in emails you receive. The easy-to-use tool can be used as a first step in researching influence background on corporate correspondence, adding context to newspaper headlines or discovering whom is behind political fundraising solicitations.

Inbox Influence works by tapping into Influence Explorer, Sunlight's library of federal and state data of political contributions, lobbying records and more. It provides details on any identified entity in the body of the email, plus information on both the sender of the email and the company from which it was sent. With it, you can even see how your friends and family have given to political campaigns.

Inbox Influence | Influence Explorer (Thanks, Nicko!)


  1. 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.

    1. I agree, at first glance this seems like a good idea, but boy it just feels like a way to unnecessarily bias your interaction with people you don’t know…

      What is next, an association filter? I never want to interact with anyone who has ever talked to Fred… go to it Inbox Influence!

  2. A plugin that copies all my mail to someone else’s server, eh? What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Did you see they have a tool that interfaces with your bank acct to see the influence of the companies you send your money with? That’s just a lot, lot, lot of trust to instill in them and I could see it absolutely backfiring and becoming a PR blackhole if there were some security hole in it.

      It looks like they have one that parses the news for influence relationships. I haven’t played with it yet but THAT seems really useful to me.

  3. to Jerry Vandesic @ #1

    You haven’t been in the boingboing comments for very long, have you?

    Unless you’re being sarcasti….

    wait, I saw what you did there!

  4. I imagine this tool would be a lot more informative if that Citizens United ruling had gone the other way.

  5. Doesn’t seem to work. Amazon, Facebook, my Bank and TicketMaster made no political contributions? Lame.

  6. I don’t need or want this for email, but it would be nice to have something similar for websites that sell stuff. That way I’d have some idea of what they’re doing with the money they make from me.

    The idea of what you might call “social consumerism” dates back to a series of paperbacks called Shopping for a Better World. They were compendiums of various corporations, listing their records on environmental, social, and political issues.

    I bought a few copies, and actually used them now and then, but these books seemed to fade away by the early 2000s. They were followed by more narrowly defined “buy blue” websites, which apparently also fizzled from lack of interest, and perhaps because of the effort required to keep them current.

    As much as the anticonsumer folks think I should, I’m probably not gonna stop buying stuff, at least not until I’m unemployed and destitute. I’d really appreciate a browser plugin that would give me instant feedback on the social (or at least political) values of the companies and people I’m dealing with.

  7. Unless I’m dealing with people at a political and/or business level, this is none of my business to know.

    That said, what an awesomely stupidly powerful Facebook plugin this would make. Think of how many arguments, aggressive wall posts, ignores and unfriends it would cause.

  8. PS

    Perhaps make an app version – call it iJudge. Pre release version would be called preJudge, but might be so good you can keep the name.

  9. Another reason why I don’t use gmail. I don’t want anyone or anything but me and my contracted spamfilter running any kind of analysis over my mail data.

    When dealing with computer security, paranoia is not enough.

    1. This doesn’t have anything to do with gmail. It’s a browser script that ganks the contents of your emails right out of your browser and sends it to these jokers. They could just as easily have written it for hotmail or whatever. I do agree with your underlying principle that you’d have to be not paying attention to think installing this is a great idea.

  10. I agree that it would be trivial to turn this into a generic browser plugin that showed you the political giving of any website you went on to. I think that would be much more useful.

    I don’t care who my co-worker gave to, but if I see that gives all it’s money to Rick Santorum, I might just go to

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