Trump 2020 Location-Tracking Firm Cashing in on Coronavirus - 2020-04-09

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F0.png Trump 2020 Location-Tracking Firm Cashing in on Coronavirus April 9, 2020, Sam Biddle, The Intercept

A smartphone tracking firm helping Donald Trump clinch his 2020 presidential reelection recently told investors it's identified a promising new profit opportunity: the global coronavirus pandemic. Phunware is part of a vast galaxy of obscure advertising technology companies that help clients follow and target their customers — to "capitalize on users' daily digital trail," as Phunware's site puts it. By embedding Phunware code in their app, a developer can easily glean detailed records of where a user goes and what they do, creating a rich behavioral history to sell on to others.

Last year, The Intercept reported that Phunware had signed to work with American Made Media Consultants, a political consultancy founded by Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale that functioned as the campaign's highly effective digital media branch.In June of last year, Phunware announced it had appointed to the company's board Brittany Kaiser, a former executive and self-described "whistleblower" from Cambridge Analytica, the company that infamously abused its access to personal Facebook data to aid Trump's 2016 victory. A group associated with Kaiser later denied she ever officially joined the board. Although Phunware hasn't publicized the details of the services it's providing to Trump's reelection effort, the impressive and potentially invasive technical capabilities it possesses are well documented, both on its website and in press reports. "Beyond identifying coveted voters, mobile data can also be used to define ad targeting parameters with incredible accuracy," reads a section of Phunware's site that compares the buying and selling of personal data to the 1849 Gold Rush. In October 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that Phunware had helped a Democratic political strategist target voters whose phones had been tracked to the 2017 anti-Trump Women's March. The company's privacy policy grants the company license to use personal data for essentially whatever purposes it deems necessary for however long it deems necessary. Phunware did not reply to repeated requests for comment.

Now, at exactly the same time as Trump has repeatedly undermined public health guidelines and overseen a generally botched federal response to Covid-19, Phunware hopes to cash in on the need to enforce pandemic measures like social distancing. In a March 30 call with investors, Phunware co-founder and CEO Alan Knitowski explained that the company was "aggressively pursuing new business opportunities … including remote telehealth and telemedicine triage for health care patient capacity management, virtual rallies for political advocacy during a presidential election year, remote work optimization for corporate campuses and social distance policy enforcement, engagement and asset-tracking for smart cities and government organizations at the local, state, and federal level."

Wikipedia cite:
{{cite news | first = Sam | last = Biddle | author2 = Lee Fang | title = Trump 2020 Location-Tracking Firm Cashing in on Coronavirus | url = https://theintercept.com/2020/04/09/coronavirus-trump-smartphone-tracking/ | work = The Intercept | date = April 9, 2020 | accessdate = May 4, 2020 }}