Trump’s Official 2020 Mobile App: What Campaign Apps Mean for Voter Data

Trump’s Official 2020 Mobile App: What Campaign Apps Mean for Voter Data

Discussions about the role of online political influence often centre around the internet giants. Disinformation can propagate on Facebook, and ranking certain political views over other ones in Google search results can sway elections. Despite the attention these two platforms command in our public – and legislative – discourse, the universe of online political influence includes a variety of other mechanisms that often go overlooked. One such technology stands out in particular. It has been used by political candidates in Australia, Sierra Leone, India, France, and more. It is becoming less expensive to deploy, and it can provide a means through which a political campaign may collect your personal information without your consent. This is the modern campaigning app.

In a promotional video reminiscent of an Apple product release, Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale – whose Twitter name reads ‘Brad Parscale - Download our Trump 2020 App today!’ – recently shared a video showcasing the new Trump 2020 app. The video opens with cinematic instrumentals and a voiceover proclaiming, “In 2016, we built an unbeatable operation that changed history,” alluding to the Trump 2016 campaign app, which harvested users’ data for campaign purposes.


Screenshots of the official Trump 2020 app. Political candidates around the world are releasing campaign apps ostensibly to connect with their base. Under the surface, these apps collect personal data of users and of their networks to advance campaign goals. Source: ACRONYM

As the progressive nonprofit ACRONYM notes, the Trump 2020 app “immediately asks for a supporter’s cell phone number” after download and requires users to opt-in to text messages. Users “Fight with President Trump” by inviting friends to the app, making calls for the campaign, and canvassing, among other campaign initiatives. The Trump 2020 app also employs elements of gamification – things like point systems, rankings and rewards, which users accrue, all of which were previously reserved for literal games – to galvanize supporters of political candidates, a marked trend among political campaign apps. To be sure, enlisting mobile apps is not limited to conservative campaigns replete with funding. Down-ballot, progressive campaigns are also harnessing apps to broadcast campaign messages and leverage social networks. And increasingly, apps are also being used for canvassing, caucusing, and mobile voting experiments.

What does the proliferation of campaign apps mean for you? How do they collect our personal data, and what challenges do such technologies pose for our democracies? Tactical Tech’s piece “Campaign Apps: Tap to Participate” explains how these technologies work and why we should care.

Related content

Reflections on the European Democracy Action Plan

If Europe’s elections are to remain contests of campaigns’ political ideas and not of their digital strategies, the systemic challenges to democracy must not be overlooked by the fires of the present moment. Varoon Bashyakarla from our Data & Politics team writes for the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.

Data & Politics: Global Partnerships

In order to investigate the 'Influence Industry' in different contexts and countries, our Data & Politics project has partnered with a diverse range of organisations and individuals in the Global South. Find out more about the work these partners do.

A Voter's Guide: 7 Tips to Detox Your Data

Our Voter’s Guide explains how personal data is collected and used by political parties and candidates – and what voters can do about it. The seven tips are now available in both English and Dutch.

→︎ Read more

Your Data, Our Democracy

As elections become increasingly data-intensive, our personal data is becoming a political asset for campaigns to leverage. This new animation, in English and Dutch, explains how this process happens - and what we can do about it.

→︎ Read more

Ad.Watch - Investigating Political Ads on Facebook

From Exposing the Invisible - The Kit: Two investigators trace their process of creating the project ad.watch, an open-research-style investigation into political advertising on Facebook. This case study follows the project’s evolution from a limited endeavour to a growing resource that facilitates investigations on political ads around the world.

As The World Goes Online, Politics is There to Meet Us

As the world goes online amid the coronavirus pandemic, it is no surprise that politics is moving online too. Tactical Tech’s Data and Politics Team have identified five digital campaigning trends that we’re likely to see more of in the coming weeks and months.

→︎ Read more

Digital Listening: Insights from social media

When you tweet your opinion about Brexit or Trump, you probably don't expect the content of your tweet to become part of an analysis of public opinion on the topic. This article explains the emerging field of digital listening and how it assess the feeling of individual potential voters and the overall public mood.

Efficiency and Madness

An essay exploring the concept of technofixes - the use of data and technology to solve social, environmental and political problems.

→︎ Read more