Security

Official Trump 2020 App Collected and Possibly Even Sold User Data

By Bill Toulas / November 19, 2020

According to credible sources, there is a pretty high possibility that the people who used the official Trump 2020 mobile app had their personal information sold to advertising networks. The app was developed by Phunware, a company that is currently fighting a legal war with Uber, which has left a deep dent in its financial status.

Allegedly, Phunware has collected the personal data of the 2.8 million users of the Trump 2020 app without ever asking for their consent, and the sole purpose of this was to sell it.

A report of the Associated Press claims internal sources from Phunware. Two former employees admit that they embedded obfuscated tracking software to collect user data like location, IP address, phone numbers from contact lists, web browsing habits, and more. Indeed, the permissions requested by the particular app during installation include literally everything a device can log.

Source: technologyreview.com

In total, it is estimated that the Trump 2020 app has collected 27 million phone numbers from the contact lists of Trump supporters. The official campaign representatives have denied commenting on that number or anything that has to do with unlawful data scraping.

Of course, that is not to say that the corresponding Biden app didn’t collect any data. Still, fewer people downloaded that piece of software, and it did have a consent dialog - if the users declined data harvesting, the app would respect that and wouldn’t run obfuscated code in the background.

This is another example that showcases how one careless or irresponsible person can expose many others who just happen to have their phone numbers on that user’s contact list. Political campaigns will go as deeply as possible to get all the demographics they need. Advertisers find a similarly high value in these sets, so they are willing to pay a premium to access the data.

Most worryingly though, this reminds us a lot about what happened the last time Trump was running for President, when Cambridge Analytica received troves of data from Facebook and was essentially empowered to set the propaganda machine cogs in motion. Five years after that, we return to see a similar case of data scraping, but better hidden this time and happening through the official tool of the political campaigners.



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