President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney have both released mobile phone apps for their election campaigns – but experts warn that they both put privacy at risk.
The apps’ main purpose is to enable volunteers to find potential voters to canvass.
However, security concerns were raised in a Reuters report last Wednesday, with Justin Brookman, a consumer privacy expert at the Center for Democracy and Technology, telling the news agency that there was a concern over the apps revealing names and addresses of nearby voters.
He said: “The concern is making it available to people who may have bad intent and that fear could deter people from giving money or otherwise participating in the political process.”
Lior Strahilevitz, a law professor at University of Chicago, where Obama lectured, stressed that the apps did nothing illegal, but software security firm GFI Labs dug a little deeper and discovered that the apps do access systems and information on mobile phones that some might find worrying.
Junior Threat Researcher Randall Griffith found that the Romney app, once you’ve signed into it through Facebook, is able to post on the users’ behalf and mine data from their friends on the social media site.
It can also access the phone’s audio recording features and camera, for reasons that are unclear.
Randall reports that the Obama app also accesses information some might find too personal.
He wrote in a blog: “[It can] access the user’s phone contact list (which includes names and numbers), call and message logs (only the phone numbers and not the actual voice or text communication).”
He added: “If you value your privacy, be careful what you download to your mobile device.”