Trump administration members and other Republicans are using the encrypted, self-destructing messaging app Confide to keep conversations private in the wake of hacks and leaks, according to Jonathan Swan and David McCabe at Axios. Axios writes that “numerous senior GOP operatives and several members of the Trump administration” have downloaded Confide, which automatically wipes messages after they’re read.
One operative told Axios that the app “provides some cover” for people in the party. He ties it to last year’s hack of the Democratic National Committee, which led to huge and damaging information dumps of DNC emails leading up to the 2016 election. But besides outright hacks, the source also said he liked the fact that Confide makes it difficult to screenshot messages, because only a few words are shown at a time. That suggests that it’s useful not just for reducing paper trails, but for stopping insiders from preserving individual messages — especially given the steady flow of leaks that have come out since Trump took office.
As Axios notes, official White House business is subject to preservation rules, although we don’t know much about who’s allegedly using Confide and what they’re doing with it, so it’s not clear whether this might run afoul of those laws. It’s also difficult to say how much this is a specifically Republican phenomenon, and how much is a general move toward encryption. Encrypted message apps like Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp apparently spiked in popularity after Trump’s election, and the Clinton campaign reportedly adopted Signal after the DNC hack was discovered. Confide co-founder Jon Brod told Axios that any news about digital vulnerabilities drove usage up across the board.
First released in 2013 on iOS, Confide is one of several products — including TigerText and Vaporstream — that adapt Snapchat-style ephemeral messaging into something more formal. Well before the DNC incident, they were pitched primarily to companies, in the wake of yet another embarrassing hack: Sony’s 2014 email leaks. But after a presidential campaign defined by information warfare, what was once billed as “Snapchat for business” may now be “Snapchat for government.”