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Mike Johnson uses surveillance app to track his son’s web history

US Republican politician Mike Johnson admitted last year that he and his teenage son monitor each other’s electronic devices for “objectionable” content, a resurfaced clip has revealed.

The new US House Speaker said during an interview at Louisiana’s Cypress Baptist Church last year that he and his son uses software that scans the other’s electronic devices and sends a weekly report to each of them so they can act as an “accountability partner”.

“He’s 17, so he and I get a report about all the things that are on our phones, all of our devices, once a week,” Johnson said at the time. “If anything objectionable comes up, your accountability partner gets an immediate notice.

“I’m proud to tell you, my son has a clean slate.”

The app, Covenant Eyes, describes itself as “screen accountability” software, which runs on a $15 (£12) monthly subscription.

It works by using AI to capture everything visible on a user’s screen and analysing them to gauge whether the content is considered “explicit.”

It was developed by Michael Holm, a former National Security Agency mathematician, who now works as a data scientist.

Johnson praised the app for stopping what he described as the “darkness” of technology, by tracking all of his and his son’s devices.

“It’s really sensitive, it will pick up almost anything,” he continued. “It looks for keywords, search terms and images. It will send your ‘accountability partner’ a blurred picture of the image.”

The revelation is yet another example of Johnson’s conservative views, which include him making a number of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-abortion statements.

After being elected as House Speaker, Johnson, who once campaigned to make gay sex illegal, claimed he “doesn’t even remember” the vast amount of anti-LGBTQ+ comments he has made in his time in politics.

One such example includes an audio clip of him saying that homosexuality caused the fall of the Roman Empire, claiming that the “deprivation of the society and the loss of morals” was a contributing factor.

Should House Speaker Mike Johnson allow third-party surveillance apps on his personal devices?

Others have also called into question whether a top US political official should be using third-party surveillance apps on their electronic devices at all.

X, formerly Twitter, user Receipt Maven, who shared the clip, asked: “A US congressman is allowing a third-party tech company to scan all his electronic devices daily and uploading reports to his son about what he’s watching or not watching… who else is accessing that data?”

Covenant Eyes is not currently compliant with US privacy policies including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

In an answer to a question on its online forum, a Covenant Eyes employee said the company has not pursued certification for either policy “for various reasons” and warned users to check its privacy and protection process before using the app.

Wired reported in June that Covenant Eyes was used in criminal proceedings to keep tabs on the family of a man released on bond after being charged with possessing child sexual abuse material.

Despite the app claiming that it does not allow the software to be used in a “premeditated legal setting,” various records pulled together in an investigative report found that at least five US states have used Covenant Eyes to track individuals on parole.