An app designed to inform users about the ethical standards of companies by scanning the barcodes of their products has launched worldwide.
Buycott, available for Android and iPhone, traces the "corporate family tree" of a product back to its parent company or conglomerate, allowing users to make decisions as to whether they agree with the political leanings or trading standards of a particular firm before buying.
The inspiration for the app was as a tool to monitor products directly or indirectly associated with billionaire conservatives Charles and David Koch, brothers who control the second largest privately-owned company in the US, Koch Industries.
Bêtes noires of the American Left, the Koch brothers gave $411,000 to Republican federal and state candidates during the 2012 election cycle, with a further $2.2m going to candidates via Koch Industries and its affiliates Georgia-Pacific and Flint Hills Resources. 95 per cent of Koch Industries' donations went to Republicans.
The brothers have funded propositions designed to stop climate change legislation in California, campaigns in Wisconsin to limit the power of unions, and have promoted their political vision via frequent donations to conservative think tanks.
Buycott marketing director Maceo Martinez told Forbes magazine yesterday that an early prototype of an app that informed users they were buying a Koch-related product had made him "wish" he was ready to launch Buycott.
Ivan Pardo, the 26-year-old developer behind the app, was more cautious, saying the app was not a tool for following any particular ideology, as users can create their own "campaigns" in-app, with information on companies crowdsourced from users.
"I don’t want to push any single point of view with the app," Pardo said.
"For me, it was critical to allow users to create campaigns because I don’t think it's Buycott’s role to tell people what to buy.
"We simply want to provide a platform that empowers consumers to make well-informed purchasing decisions."
Buycott is available on the Google Play Store and Apple App store now.