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Trump Campaign’s Phone App Gathered Supporters’ Intimate Data

by : Hannah Smith on : 18 Nov 2020 14:10
Trump Campaign's Phone App Gathered Supporters' Intimate DataTrump Campaign's Phone App Gathered Supporters' Intimate DataPA Images

A phone app raising funds for the Trump campaign is being used to collect the personal data of millions of his supporters, even after the election has ended.

Almost 3 million people have downloaded the app, which sends out fundraising requests, promotes MAGA merchandise, and even allows users to gain ‘loyalty points’ for the chance to meet Trump himself.

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However AP reports that behind the app lies a huge data gathering operation, with campaign staff given access to the location data, social media accounts, and even in some cases entire contact lists of the app’s users.

860,000 people downloaded the Trump campaign app when it went live in July, with over 2.8million on it by mid-November. For comparison, Joe Biden’s first campaign app received just 11,075 downloads. According to AP, the app’s data collection strategy means the campaign could have also gained access to the phone numbers of tens of millions more people who never even downloaded the app.

Despite Joe Biden being named president-elect, the Trump campaign has continued to send out alerts and fundraising requests over the past fortnight since the election. Last week, the app appealed to users to donate to Trump’s ‘Election Defence Fund’, and also pushed a message from the President in which he said Biden was ‘rushing to falsely pose as the winner.’

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Campaign watchdogs have warned that the data collected by the app would likely be used for future Trump business ventures, and could also be sold to the highest bidder.

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Former Federal Elections Commission attorney Adav Noti said:

I’m assuming that what he is going to do is transfer the assets of the campaign.

You can definitely buy the data and the campaign can sell it to you, the trickier question is how much do you have to pay for it.

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Phunware, the company behind the app, reportedly offered the campaign a way to use location data to create high personalised and largely untraceable advertisements, claiming they could track users’ attendance at ‘event appearances, polling centers, sporting events – even an opponent’s campaign rally.’

The company was paid more than $2.4 million by America Made Media Consultants to develop the fundraising app, accounting for at least a third of their business. America Made Media Consultants are a digital strategy company who have received hundreds of millions of dollars from the Trump campaign for fundraising and advertising services, ABC News reports.

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Yet despite their central role in Trump’s re-election campaign, Phunware have been struggling financially, and for some periods appear to have been kept afloat by their work for the Trump campaign.

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Earlier this year the company reportedly  received a $2.9 million loan from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, at the same time as they were developing the campaign app. Phunware denied that they had received any special treatment for the Trump administration, but have refused to return the money.

With the election over, The New York Times reports that current fundraising efforts will be used by Trump to try and maintain his financial influence on the Republican party even after he is no longer president. Others have suggested he plans to use leftover campaign money to establish a new right-wing media channel to rival Fox News.

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Associated Press
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