Joe Biden's campaign app reportedly gave users access to personal details of millions

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Sep 15, 2020, 05:35 PM IST


Story highlights

Social media and technology play a huge role in any modern elections, and the same holds true for the upcoming US elections

US presidential elections are inching closer, and Joe Biden and Donald Trump are headed for a fierce competition. 

Social media and technology play a huge role in any modern elections, and the same holds true for the upcoming US elections. 

"Vote Joe"

However, technology has its own set of loopholes. For instance, The Democratic Party’s prime candidate Joe Biden runs an official campaigning smartphone application. Much to everyone’s dismay, the application reportedly gave access to sensitive voter information on millions of Americans, a security researcher recently found. “Vote Joe”, the official name of the app, gives a platform to Biden supporters to garner more support for him among friends and family, and to encourage others to vote in the upcoming elections.

As part of this process, users are required to upload the details of contacts on their phone to check whether they are registered to vote. Based on data from the user’s phone, the application cross-checks voter data to ascertain whether one is set to vote this year.

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The data is supplied by TargetSmart, a political marketing firm which has files on over 191 million Americans. Once matched, the app displays details of the voter, including name, age, and birthday. It also informs the user of which election the searched party last voted in.

According to the app, this helps “users find people you know and encourage them to get involved”. Even though a lot of this data is publicly accessible, the bug in the application enabled anyone to easily access voter information.

Personal details divulged

This was discovered by The App Analyst, a mobile expert who divulged the details of his findings on his blog.

The expert found that the app can be easily manipulated by creating a contact on one’s phone with any voter’s name. Following this, one could access all the details available on the person.

In conversation with TechCrunch, the expert claimed that the application also pulls in a lot more data than it claims to. The application reportedly saves voter’s home address, gender, date of birth, political party affiliation, and ethnicity. 

The bug, though, has been fixed and an update was released on Friday.

“We were made aware about how our third-party app developer was providing additional fields of information from commercially available data that was not needed,” Biden campaign’s spokesperson Matt Hill told TechCrunch. 

“We worked with our vendor quickly to fix the issue and remove the information. We are committed to protecting the privacy of our staff, volunteers and supporters will always work with our vendors to do so”, he added.

Hill also disputed the claim that the app was giving out private information. 

TargetSmart, the firm behind data management of voters claimed that only a “limited amount of publicly or commercially available data” could have been accessed by voters.