Susan Walsh/AP

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Writing from a email account, self-described “undocumented immigrant” Jose Magana last night shared his personal immigration story with the masses.

Magana said he came to the United States from Mexico at age 2. He slept on a couch for much of his young life. He worked hard and excelled in school but lived in fear of being deported to a country he barely knows.

“Everyone has a story — I’m sure you do, too,” Magana wrote in touting immigration policy reform on behalf of Organizing for Action, President Barack Obama’s new nonprofit advocacy organization that sprung from his campaign committee. “At this critical moment, will you share your immigration story? Organizing for Action will use these stories to move the conversation forward.”

But that’s not all Organizing for Action might use your story for.

What isn’t immediately evident to people inclined to submit their names, emails, ZIP codes, photo and personal immigration story through a provided online form: that the group reserves itself the right to use volunteered information as it sees fit.

By checking a box on the form, respondents grant Organizing for Action a “perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sublicensable, royalty free license to publish, reproduce, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display, edit, modify, create derivative works of and otherwise use the submissions in any manner or media,” according to a statement on the form’s “submission terms” page.

Obama’s nonprofit further states that it reserves the right to use submissions “for any purpose whatsoever at the sole discretion of OFA, including without limitation any political, advertising or commercial use of any kind.”

Underscoring this point: the revelation that people who donated to Obama’s re-election campaign or joined his campaign email list are receiving messages from his new nonprofit. That’s because the political committee leased its supporter database to the nonprofit, NBC News last month reported.

Organizing for Action is a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization that, by law, cannot have a primary purpose of engaging in politics and says it will not engage in partisan, electoral politics at all.

In a statement, Organizing for Action today told the Center for Public Integrity that it is “adopting the same standards that our supporters have come to expect, that any and all information that is shared with Organizing for Action is for our use and we will take great care to protect it.”

Some privacy advocates aren’t convinced, however, citing state-level Democrats who are considering selling supporter databases to retail establishments and credit card companies, as reported by ProPublica.

Such data mining and political database building is hardly new, with Republican and Democratic political interests routinely asking supporters to volunteer identifying data — and sometimes, collecting it surreptitiously. During the 2012 election season, contests and petitions proved particularly popular come-ons for collecting personal details through web forms typically prompting supporters for their names, ZIP codes and email addresses.

Rarely, however, have they asked for photographs, videos and stories that could contain highly personal information, as is the case with Organizing for Action’s latest pitch.

Organizing for Action further details how it uses information it collects from people, and how it shares that information with third parties, within its 2,398-word privacy policy, last updated on Feb. 1.

Help support this work

Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t accept advertising so that our investigative reporting can have the widest possible impact on addressing inequality in the U.S. Our work is possible thanks to support from people like you.