alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.

MIT report exposes Trump campaign app as a deceptive 'surveillance tool'

MIT report exposes Trump campaign app as a deceptive 'surveillance tool'
Evan Guast (cropped) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

About 800,000 people have downloaded the Trump 2020 campaign’s app. According to a study by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT, users are handing over a massive amount of personal information – and an astonishing amount of access – to the Trump campaign.


MIT, which investigated both the Trump campaign app and the Biden campaign app says the Trump campaign app is a “voter surveillance tool” with “extraordinary power.”

The Biden campaign app also collects data but far less than the Trump campaign app.

“Data collection,” MIT Technology Review reports, “is perhaps the most powerful thing the Trump 2020 app does. On signing up, users are required to provide a phone number for a verification code, as well as their full name, email address, and zip code. They are also highly encouraged to share the app with their existing contacts. This is part of a campaign strategy for reaching the 40 to 50 million citizens expected to vote for Trump’s reelection: to put it bluntly, the campaign says it intends to collect every single one of these voters’ cell-phone numbers. This strategy means the app also makes extensive permission requests, asking for access to location data, phone identity, and control over the handset’s Bluetooth function.”

That’s not all.

The Trump 2020 re-election app is “often actively deceiving readers with highly questionable or entirely disproven information under headlines such as ‘Media Continue to Spread Debunked Theory About Tear Gas,’ ‘Media Mask-Shamers Keep Getting Caught Breaking Their Own Rules,’ or ‘Top 8 Moments from Joe Biden’s Embarrassingly Disastrous, Epically Boring Livestream.'”

Security researchers “found it had left information exposed that could allow hackers to access the user data,” MIT reports.

And there are more concerning revelations from MIT.

The Trump campaign app uses software from a company, Phunware, that “has come under major scrutiny recently for accepting millions of dollars in federal loans intended to help small businesses cope with the coronavirus.”

“Phunware’s invasive tactics for gathering data and reaching voters have drawn comparisons to Cambridge Analytica,” MIT adds.

Last week Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale bragged he has a secret weapon that would help them communicate with 100 million Americans.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close