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With Trump’s Campaign App, There’s No Wall Protecting Your Contact Data

Screenshots from the new Trump campaign app, America First.Screenshots from the new Trump campaign app, America First.
Screenshots from the new Trump campaign app, America First.uCampaign

Donald Trump’s new campaign app, dubbed America First, asks to collect troubling amounts of data from users, including their address books, according to experts speaking to ABC News.

The app is, appropriately, a kind of competitive social game, with users earning “action points” for things like checking in at rallies, donating to the campaign, and posting messages of support on social media. Users are then ranked on local and national leaderboards.

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But according to the app’s privacy policy, the app “may access, collect, and store personal information about other people that is available to us through your contact list and/or address book.” Though it’s not clear how this data would be used by the app or campaign, it could be added to campaign databases for fundraising or get out the vote efforts, exposing users’ networks to unwanted communications. That would also expose users’ contact data to any breach of the Trump campaigns’ systems, which were recently compromised.

It’s common for both political campaigns and mobile apps in general to aggressively collect user information, but an analyst with the ACLU told ABC that Trump’s app collects “significantly more data” about users than Hillary Clinton’s campaign app. Marc Rotenburg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center said the level of access requested by the Trump app is “egregious.”

Denying the Trump app access to contacts on initial installation doesn’t seem to prevent use of America First, though, so Trump supporters concerned about privacy do have an option.

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The low privacy protections of Trump’s app are, in fact, in line with his broader anti-privacy stances. He has criticized Apple for its resistance to providing security backdoors to the government, and has suggested he supported executing Edward Snowden for exposing the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs.

The application was developed by uCampaign, which has also developed voter engagement apps for the pro-Brexit campaign and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz.