Salon: Trump’s 2020 election app harvests intimate user data, including location: report
Salon: Trump's 2020 election app harvests intimate user data, including location: report
Awynyone with a smartphone is familiar with the litany of privacy permissions that users are asked to approve upon downloading a new app. Yet while few users would balk at a photo-editing app asking for permission to access your camera, how might you feel about Donald Trump’s app asking to download your entire contact list?
Now, a research team at the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement has found that President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and — to a lesser extent — former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign are mining personal data from unsuspecting users who download their bespoke campaign apps. …
While Trump’s app is multifarious, Biden’s app is designed primarily for relational organizing. When users of the Biden app download it, they are asked to share their contact list, where individuals who might support Biden are identified. The app then asks users to send personalized messages to these individuals.
By contrast, the official app for Trump 2020 asks for far more privacy permissions. The Trump app “wants to read your contacts and know your precise and approximate location (GPS and network based). . . . It requests the ability to read your phone status and identity (a vague permission that sometimes gives access to unique device numbers), pair with Bluetooth devices (such as geolocation beacons), and perhaps read, write, or delete from SD cards in the device.” In order to function, users must give the app their phone number (they are sent a verification code to verify they gave a real number); they also must provide full name, zip code, and an email address. …
Yosef Getachew, Media & Democracy Program Director at Common Cause, expressed a similar sentiment.
We have a “glaring lack of privacy protections [in] this country,” Getachew told Salon, pointing out that there is “no federal framework for privacy.” Regarding the Trump app specifically, Getachew noted that it is “pretty invasive, and one of the things that we would like to see in a federal framework is some sort of data minimization policy, where your company or service provider is only required to collect data necessary to run the surface.”