Matt Hancock MP’s new social media app ridiculed for security faults

The Secretary of State responsible for digital security released an app that violates his department's own security standards.

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Matt Hancock MP

The Rt Honourable Matt Hancock, MP, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has made himself the laughingstock of the UK political scene today in a failed attempt to “connect” with his constituents through a new social media app.

The eponymous software offering, known simply as “Matt Hancock MP,” became available on the App Store and Google Play this morning. Immediately upon release it became the subject of intense giggling all across Westminster.

Matt Hancock’s in-app purchases

Once the app is downloaded and fired up, the user is shown a very awkward, selfie-style video of the minister, welcoming everyone to the new social media experience.

“Hi, I’m Matt Hancock and welcome to my app! It’s a chance to find out what’s going on both in my role as MP for West Suffolk, and as Culture Secretary,” he enthuses.

Users are then told a list of “Things we like” and “things we don’t like” (open transparent discussion is in the first category, spam in the second), which is meant to ensure everyone  plays nicely (which did not work).

In theory, the app promises users the chance to make comments on livestream videos from Matt Hancock MP himself, just like on Facebook. So far there have been no livestream videos and besides it would be much easier for the Culture Secretary to reach his constituents on an actual Facebook page.

The app is a ridiculous concept, plainly borne out of a desperate attempt by someone who is not tech savvy to appear tech savvy. But unfortunately for Hancock, the execution of the app is poor as well. The first sign that the product has not been thought through carefully are the warnings on the download screen, which say, “Parental Guidance,” and “Offers in-app purchases.” Matt Hancock MP is offering in-app purchases?

Matt Hancock MP wants to access your photos

As you dive deeper into the Mark Hancock MP app you begin to realise it is not just silly and badly thought out – it appears to violate digital privacy regulations. Which is ironic because the minister responsible for enforcing digital privacy regulations is…. Matt Hancock!

The app also asks for permissions it does not appear to actually need, and because of the app’s name, this leads to some creepy, intrusive-sounding messages. “Matt Hancock wants to access your photos.” “Matt Hancock wants to access your camera.” “Matt Hancock wants to access your location.”

But most alarming is the woolly, imprecise and bizarre language in the app’s privacy policy. The list of ways user data can be shared begins with “including,” to indicate the list is not complete and could include ways not listed. The policy is also peppered with weaselly words like ‘may’ that the EU has strongly discouraged when its GDPR regulations come into force later this Spring. You know, the regulations Matt Hancock will be enforcing.

According to the Register’s Rebecca Hill, the source of the app’s inadequacies is rooted in the one-size-fits all celebrity app makers who were hired as designers. She wrote, “the developer, Disciple Media Ltd…pinches off dime-a-dozen apps for anyone who will pay them…Disciple Media Ltd uses the same standard set of terms for all its clients, whether that’s an MP, a ‘fitness guru,’ the Rolling Stones or a questionably named band.”

But this does not seem fair to Disciple Media’s other clients. In the spirit of fairness News Growl has downloaded several other of the design firm’s vanity apps and none appear to be as slipshod as Matt Hancock MP. The apps for the YouTuber known as KSI and country music singer Luke Bryan appeared to be much slicker.

These apps also allowed signups with Google and Facebook accounts, which overcame another problem that plagued the Matt Hancock MP app: impersonating other politicians has so far been its most popular activity. A Boris Johnson, a Donald Trump, and a Liz Truss have all joined. The most liked post of the day was from an Ed Balls who posted the comment, “Ed Balls.”

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