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App Rats Out Corporations

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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Proponents of unregulated free market capitalism argue that a company’s success is determined by its appeal, or lack thereof, to consumers in the marketplace. Thanks to a new app, it looks like consumers will now more effectively be able to decide whether or not they want to support a given company by purchasing its goods.

Designed to make business more visible, the bizVizz app is “the first mobile iPhone app to make corporate behavior transparent,” its press release reads. “Snap a picture of a brand’s logo and a simple graphic screen instantly displays essential facts about America’s largest corporations.”

“Essential facts” include the amount of taxes paid, political contributions made and government subsidies received.

Based on the brand’s photo, the app is able to access the company’s corporate information. “BizVizz currently has 300 companies and over 900 brands with plans to expand,” reads the press release.

“This is public information,” says Brad Lichtenstein, filmmaker and president of 371 Productions and the app’s creator. “We’re just making it visible.”

A media company that produces public activism campaigns and documentaries about social issues, 371 Productions has partnered with a handful of organizations, including Tax Justice Network, Faculty Creative and the Sunlight Foundation, as well as U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the AFL-CIO, to create and distribute the bizVizz app. Some funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Lichtenstein says he developed the idea for the app when he was making his most recent film, As Goes Janesville, about the experiences of laid-off General Motors (GM) workers in Wisconsin.

“I watched the democratic process being subverted,” notes Litchenstein, “and felt that we should do something on a grander scale to make corporate behavior more transparent, especially when we’re all called on to do our part during these tough economic times.”

Will the bizVizz app be successful? As Adam Smith, the godfather of free market capitalism, suggested, that will be decided in the marketplace.•

For more information, visit bizVizz at bizvizz.com.

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