A number of senior White House officials, including press secretary Sean Spicer, have at one point downloaded the Confide messaging app that touts "military-grade encryption," allowing users to secretly and securely message one another. But it may be a great deal less secure than they think.
Cybersecurity experts warn that the Confide app, which boasts a feature that deletes messages as soon as they are read, is rife with security concerns. It also raises questions about whether senior members of the White House should be using an app that purposely deletes their conversations, potentially flouting rules requiring that they keep an accurate record of communications within the White House. The use of the app by government officials was first reported by Axios.
BuzzFeed News found the phone numbers of Spicer, along with Hope Hicks, the director of strategic communications, via a feature that allows users to see friends who have already joined.
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In a phone call with BuzzFeed News, Spicer confirmed that he used the app, but said that he had done so only once, when asked to by a reporter "months ago." He offered to show a BuzzFeed News reporter his phone as proof.
"I downloaded it, but I'm glad to show anyone my phone and that I've literally sent one message on Confide," said Spicer. "These are personal phones… I also have iTunes on my personal phone, Solitaire, and other apps. Frankly I think the idea that you guys are writing a story, the idea of what apps I use on my phone, is an invasion of my privacy."
Spicer added that he kept a separate device for White House business, and that he used his personal phone for personal matters.
Hicks' cell number, which at first appeared on the Confide app, was no longer there when a BuzzFeed News reporter checked several hours later. A company insider said that it was possible she had deleted the app months ago, but that the company policy was to keep users listed even once the account was deleted.