Campaign for Accountability Calls on Apple & Google to Remove Anti-Choice Apps from Their Platforms
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2019
Contact: Daniel Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, sent letters to executives at Apple and Google calling on the companies to remove from their platforms apps belonging to the anti-abortion behemoth Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) and anti-choice/anti-LGBT group, the Family Research Council (FRC), for violating company policies. CfA’s letters document how apps belonging to FRC and SBA List have violated App Store and Google Play rules by 1) misusing users’ personal information to recruit new members, 2) failing to provide privacy policies, 3) utilizing template-designed apps that have been banned, and 4) requiring users to sign in to an app before they are able to access its features.
CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “The Family Research Council and Susan B. Anthony List are using their smartphone apps to trick unsuspecting Americans in to turning over their personal data just so they can sign up new members. Apple and Google should enforce their own privacy rules and stop Susan B. Anthony List and Family Research Council from abusing innocent Americans.”
CfA’s letters to executives at Apple and Google call on the companies to expel the SBA List’s app, Life Impact, and FRC’s app, STAND FIRM, from their platforms. Life Impact and STAND FIRM are both run by Political Social Media LLC, an app developer that operates 13 conservative apps in both the App Store and Google Play. Besides these two anti-choice apps, Political Social Media runs apps for the National Rifle Association, President Trump’s campaign committee, and conservative parties in Canada and Australia. CfA’s letters call for all of Political Social Media’s apps to be removed.
Life Impact and STAND FIRM, like all of Political Social Media’s apps, are virtually identical. For each client, including the anti-choice groups, Political Social Media sets up a boilerplate social media platform where members can chat with each other, post comments on in-app newsfeeds, and play games. Political Social Media’s apps have drawn intense scrutiny because they lack basic privacy protections. For instance, the company operated an app for the Vote Leave campaign in Great Britain, and a parliamentary committee later questioned the “data privacy concerns raised” by the app. Additionally, the New York Times, NBC News, and BuzzFeed, have all examined how the company uses its apps to mine users’ personal data.
All of Political Social Media’s apps, including Life Impact and STAND FIRM, appear to violate Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines and the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement. Apple and Google have outlined extensive polices for their platforms that require developers to provide adequate privacy policies and protect their users’ data. The tech companies also require developers to build authentic apps and submit them in the name of the company that operates them. Political Social Media, on behalf of FRC and SBA List, appears to be violating all of these policies.
CfA Counsel Alice C.C. Huling elaborated, “Apple and Google have kicked other apps off their platforms for violating their policies, and these anti-choice groups should be no exception. Tech companies should apply their rules uniformly, rather than turn a blind eye to violations by developers with powerful political and social connections. Family Research Council and Susan B. Anthony List should not be allowed to violate company policies to prey on unsuspecting consumers in an effort to expand their anti-abortion rhetoric.”
Campaign for Accountability is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.
Letter to Apple