President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign was powered by a cellphone app that allowed staff to monitor the movements of his millions of supporters, and offered intimate access to their social networks.
While the campaign may be winding down, the data strategy is very much alive, and the digital details the app collected can be put to multiple other uses — to fundraise for the president’s future political ventures, stoke Trump’s base, or even build an audience for a new media empire.
The app lets Trump’s team communicate directly with the 2.8 million people who downloaded it — more than any other app in a U.S. presidential campaign — and if they gave permission, with their entire contact list as well.
As the pandemic kept people home, Trump’s campaign used the app to acquire new users remotely. By mid-November the app hit 2.8 million downloads, according to online data provider Apptopia.
That could give the campaign hundreds of millions of phone numbers, enabling it to reach people whose digits were stored in their friends’ contact lists but didn’t consent to being contacted, Apptopia’s CEO Eliran Sapir estimated.