Future Tense

GOP Officials Reportedly Using a Snapchat-Esque App for Private Conversations

Confide, the Snapchat for politicians?


On Wednesday, Axios reported that, spooked by the Democratic National Committee hack, “numerous senior GOP operatives and several members of the Trump administration” are using Confide, an encrypted messaging app. Confide self-destructs messages once they are read, promising that they will be “gone forever”—or at least wiped from your device and Confide’s servers.

Confide also forces you to drag your finger to read one line of the message at a time, making it difficult to take a single screenshot to use as a receipt—helping to thwart potential leaks. It can integrate with Siri and voice messages on iPhones and Androids, too.

Confide’s co-founder and president, Jon Brod, said in an email that thanks to the news of Confide’s purported GOP fans, this week’s new-user signups were triple what they were last week.

Confide also has politician fans outside of the United States. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a politician who also got into hot water for having a private email server, uses Confide and Wickr to talk to journalists and colleagues. Although he said he does not use them to communicate classified information, he nevertheless defended their use in a press conference in 2015, saying, “[Y]ou shouldn’t assume that government email services are more secure than private ones.”

Of course, Confide isn’t the only option for today’s privacy-conscious politician. This past May, Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign staffers were reportedly ordered to use Signal, an encrypted messaging app that Edward Snowden “uses every day,” after the DNC’s servers were found compromised.

At the White House, all official business correspondence is supposed to take place over White House email for preservation purposes. Of course, since the contents of those encrypted messages were not revealed in the Axios report, it’s unclear whether anyone’s breaking the law.

What is clear is that Confide is another tool that is giving people back some control over their data from third parties. “Everything we communicate digitally is on various servers that we have no idea about and certainly no control over. And the recipient retains a copy of the correspondence forever. We think this is dangerous,” Brod said about why Confide was created. (Nothing is sacred these days—some enterprising folks uncovered what they believed to be White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s Venmo account. The account’s payments were private, but its friends’ list was searchable for people to find and troll, as the Who? Weekly podcast pointed out.)

It’s this lack of security and privacy over convenient communication that Confide wants to fix. In a world where private words are screenshoted, reblogged, and retweeted on public stages, Confide wants to give all people, even the Sean Spicers of the world, the face-to-face promise of olden times: We’ll keep this just between us.