On Tuesday morning, the Trump campaign sent out a press release, proclaiming “Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., launches dynamic new website to provide, unique, behind the scenes view.”
The term “beacons” refers to Bluetooth-enabled devices that act as one-way transmitters, sending signals to other Bluetooth-enabled devices such as phones and tablets that pass within a few meters of the beacon. The technology is most commonly used by retailers to send targeted advertisements or alerts to people walking near stores, or browsing within them.
It is not clear how or if the nascent 2020 Trump presidential campaign planned to use proximity beacon data gathered from users, but no other major campaign sites include language referring to the devices.
Hours after CBS News emailed the Trump campaign’s digital director, Brad Parscale, about its intended use of beacons, language referring to the devices was removed from the site.
But nearly identical privacy policies noting the use of proximity beacons are still in place on the websites of the Trump Organization, Trump International Realty and Mar-a-Lago — Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida country club.
The sites were all built by the web design firm founded by Parscale, who did not reply to questions about the use of proximity beacons.
The Trump websites note that “Trump Apps…may rely on this location information in order to provide certain location-based services, such as promotional offers, merchandise offers, event information and other related content that may be of interest to you.”
The sites note that users can “opt out” by turning off Bluetooth on their devices.
The fact that a political campaign website or app might collect and use location information isn’t unusual, said privacy expert Frank Ahearn, who wrote The New York Times bestselling book “How to Disappear.” Still, he said the use of proximity beacons by a campaign would be unusual.
“The beacon doesn’t exactly show where you are, it just shows your general proximity,” Ahearn said.