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Dr. Phil-Backed Domestic Violence App Aspire News Exposed Data About Users

What happened: Aspire News, a covert app for reporting domestic violence, breached data security and exposed sensitive user data. The app, which is backed by Dr. Phil and his wife Robin McGraw, is designed to look like a regular news app. However, it includes functionality to alert loved ones when someone is experiencing domestic violence along with other resources.

The app’s security issue was first reported by TechCrunch and discovered by security researchers Noam Rotem and Ran Locar. Rotem and Locar tested the Aspire News app and found that users could easily access recordings and personally identifiable data of other users by a simple manipulation of a URL link they receive when using the app. Exposed recordings dated back to 2017, and the database has now been pulled offline.

The Frontlines: Aspire News was launched in 2013 by the McGraw’s foundation When Georgia Smiled to help domestic abuse victims more safely report instances of abuse. Since its launch, Aspire News had over 300,000 downloads and over 4,000 voice recordings that users can send to trusted contacts to alert them when they’re in danger.

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A Mighty Voice: Our contributor, Jenny Cokely, shared the abuse she experienced as a child and the impact this has had on her confidence and well-being as an adult. “Growing up, I had no voice of my own, no words I could use to express the depths of my sadness and fear, and no way to scream for safety. Words were weapons in my home — threats of harm for telling the truth, for having the desire to be a child, for being seen.” You can submit your first person story, too.

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Other things to know: COVID-19 has increased concerns about domestic violence as stay-at-home orders keep people at home. To read more on the topic and the impact COVID-19 has on domestic violence, check out these Mighty articles.

Where to get help: If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you’re not alone. You can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and get help 24/7. You can also join our Mighty community to give and get support from others who have been there.

Header image screen shot via Dr. Phil/YouTube