Official Trump 2020 campaign app is a ‘one-way tool of propaganda’ that requests access to more than twice the amount of personal data than Biden’s Team Joe app, researchers say
- Researchers analyzed the data requests from the Trump 2020 campaign app
- They found it requested more than twice the permissions of Biden’s app
- The Trump app tracks locations, call data, calendar information, and more
According to UT Austin’s Center for Media Engagement, Donald Trump’s reelection campaign app requests access to huge amounts of personal data when running on people’s smartphones.
The Official Trump 2020 App, which has been downloaded from the App Store and Google Play Store more than 780,000 times, asks for more than twice the amount of permissions that Joe Biden’s Team Joe campaign app does.
Data sought by the Trump app include contact lists, calendar information, call data, and a range of location data to track users.
Researchers from UT Austin analyzed The Official Trump 2020 App and found it requests access to more than twice the amount of personal data from a person’s phone than does Joe Biden’s Team Joe app
Researchers also found that the Android version of the app was compiled using older software from Google with outdated security and privacy provisions.
‘Trump’s casino-like campaign app seems to be his own attempt to create a “one-way tool of propaganda,”’ UT Austin’s Jacob Gursky and Samuel Woolley write in an essay on their early findings in MIT Technology Review.
‘Its deployment is part of a global trend, piggybacking on years of unresolved privacy and security issues within the app ecosystem.’
At first glance, the Trump app seems like a traditional campaign app, distributing news stories and updates about the campaign, listing upcoming campaign events, and asking for donations.
Users also accrue points for using the app and persuading other people in their contact list to join, which can later be used for merchandising and other perks from the campaign.
Upon installation, the app asks for a person’s full name, phone number, email address, and zip code.
The Trump app tracks two different forms of location data and asks for permission to a person’s calendar information, call data, device identification number and more
Based on permissions listed on the Google Play Store, the researchers say the app also accesses a phone’s unique device number, the list of other accounts that have been used on the phone, and calendar information.
The app also uses two forms of location tracking data, one through GPS tracking and another using cell network towers to approximate a person’s location.
It also requests access to information about USB storage devices that have connected to the phone, call information stored on the phone, and it asks for permission to read, write, and delete data.
The Trump app also requests access to phone Bluetooth data, something that advertisers have used in the past to identify and target customers through local Bluetooth beacons
The app also requests access to a phone’s Bluetooth sensor, something that could provide a third way to track user movements and location via local Bluetooth beacons.
In the past, advertisers have used local Bluetooth beacons to track customer movements and offer location-specific promotions.
Researchers point to past reports that Republican campaign yard signs have had Bluetooth beacons in them to suggest the campaign may want the capacity to do something similar.