In 2016, the emails of Democratic Party officials were hacked and leaked to Wikileaks — an incident that defined the US presidential election and helped Donald Trump achieve his shock victory over establishment favourite Hillary Clinton.
Republicans are now determined not to let the same happen to them.
Axios’ Jonathan Swan and David McAbe are reporting that some members of Trump’s administration and other senior Republican officials have taken up using Confide, a secrecy-focused messaging app backed by Google.
These days, plenty of apps — from iMessage to WhatsApp — offer end-to-end encryption to help protect users’ data from prying eyes. But Confide takes it a step further by deleting messages once they have been read, Snapchat-style, and makes it difficult to even screenshot them.
Confide cofounder Jon Brod told Business Insider he was “pleased” to hear the report. “We’re very pleased to hear that government figures may be using Confide, and we think it makes perfect sense. Confide is particularly useful for people who communicate sensitive information as a matter of course,” he said in an email. ‘These people could include executive teams, boards of directors, lawyers, deal makers, journalists, HR professionals, management consultants, celebrities, high net worth individuals and more. Government figures certainly fit nicely into this category.”
Axios reports that Republicans have started using the app as a result of the damaging hack of Democratic Party emails. “For folks that are on the inside in this city, it provides some cover,” one Republican user told the site.
Some, however, have been critical of the adoption of Confide by government officials, arguing it erodes transparency and means records aren’t preserved. Anthony De Rosa derisively described it on Twitter as the “GOP evidence destroying tool of choice,” while Documentcloud’s Ted Han criticised Wikileaks in a sarcastic tweet over the news: “Good job Wikileaks. Definitely an agent for transformative transparency.”
But Brod shrugged off transparency concerns when asked about them, characterizing Confide as “the digital equivalent of a face-to-face meeting or phone call.”
He argues that the company is “essentially marrying the privacy and security of the spoken word with the convenience of digital communication. We started Confide to help professionals and business people have more efficient, private and secure communication and we certainly hope and expect that’s what people are using it for.”
The three-year-old business is now used in 180 countries, the cofounder said, and it has raised $3.4 million in outside funding from Google Ventures (now called GV), First Round Capital, Jeremy Stoppelman, and others.
Of course, Confide isn’t the only app that is enjoying a boost from political paranoia. After the DNC hack, party staffers were told to use Signal — an encrypted messaging app that comes with Edward Snowden’s seal of approval — according to a report from Vanity Fair in August 2016.