Donald Trump's new app has some very shady privacy provisions

Source: AP
Source: AP

On Friday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump launched the "America First" app, a combination social networking service and game which allows users to compete against each other for points by supporting his campaign.

But like most things Trump-related, there's a big catch — according to ABC News, America First comes with a privacy policy allowing the campaign to "access, collect, and store personal information about other people that is available to us through your contact list and/or address book." In other words, America First could potentially be collecting not just information about its users, but everyone they have ever interacted with using their phone.

Electronic Privacy Information Center executive director Marc Rotenberg told ABC News Trump is "basically saying he has the right to pull down the contact list of the donors and supporters [using the app], which is something that is really very controversial."

ACLU of Northern California technology and civil liberties policy director Nicole Ozer added, "Here you have the situation where an individual is wanting to use the app, and they're making decisions about other people's privacy."

Users don't get much in exchange for throwing open the door to their contact books other than the opportunity to win badges. As Fusion's Rafi Schwartz noted, the actual feature set of Trump's app is quite limited, and primarily boils down to "a mishmash of Trump news alerts, requests to donate to the campaign, a clock measuring the 'Time Left Until We Defeat Crooked Hillary' (really just an election countdown) and the ability to check-in at a Trump rally, among other things."

According to ABC News, a "brief" test of the app showed it continued to work correctly even if users opted out of the data-collection provisions during the initial registration process, though it does not inform them as such. That means people using America First may be under the impression agreeing to the app's expansive privacy policies is a requirement of use. A similar app for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has opt-in rather than opt-out rules for sharing contact info.

However, Gizmodo reported Trump supporters had flooded both iTunes and Google Play's online stores with positive reviews.

It's not the first time Trump's digital operations have raised some eyebrows. In early August, Mic's James Dennin wrote the candidate's website only allowed users to cancel recurring donations"only if you register your account by setting a password and navigate through a labyrinthine process."

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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