Experts warn the program Mike Johnson used to keep himself from watching porn is akin to 'a modern day wiretap program'

  • In 2022, Rep. Mike Johnson said he uses software that monitors his computer and phone.

  • The main use of the service, Covenant Eyes, is to stop its customers from viewing porn.

  • Experts said it's "frightening" and "terrifying" that Johnson installed the programs on his devices.

Experts told Insider it's "frightening" and "terrifying" that Speaker Mike Johnson installed monitoring programs on his devices to keep him and his son from watching porn as it sets him up for possible extortion attempts.

Over the weekend, a video emerged showing Johnson telling a crowd at a church in 2022 that he and his son used a software called "Covenant Eyes," which monitors everything a user does and alerts their "accountability partner" if they view anything it deems objectionable. Johnson said his accountability partner was his then-17-year-old son.

"What it does real simply is it has an algorithm and software — it's way above my head how it works," Johnson said. "But it scans — you obviously opt into it — but it scans all the activity on your phone or your devices, your laptop, tablet, what have you. We do all of it."

According to Covenant Eyes' website, the program uses artificial intelligence to monitor everything on the user's screen and send screenshots to its servers for review. It only does so, the website says, after reducing the image in size and blurring it, "making the text illegible in many, but not all cases."

Michael Coates, a former chief information security officer at Twitter and head of security at Mozilla, said he thinks it's "very concerning" to hear that a member of Congress used the platform. Johnson's office did not respond to Insider's questions to learn if he still uses it and if it's ever been installed on his government computer or cell phone.

"This is essentially a modern-day wiretap program built and developed by a private corporation that is installed on his personal laptop — and we can imagine his personal phone — capturing essentially everything that may be happening on his device," Coates said.

It's a problem, Coates said, if Covenant Eyes or a similar program is installed on any of Johnson's work-related computers or phones, especially now that he's speaker, given his proximity to classified information and government secrets. While the company says it blurs the images when sending them to its servers, he said there's no way for the user to know if that's actually happening.

Even if the program's only installed on Johnson's personal computer and phone, using the program as a member of Congress still raises many red flags, Coates said, as "there's still a wealth of private information for the speaker that's being captured by the software: his communication with his friends, family, business associates."

Yotam Ophir, a professor who studies misinformation and extremism at the University of Buffalo, echoed Coates' concerns. He said it's "frightening" that "a person so high in the chain of command is allowing his computer or phone information to be constantly scraped and stored somewhere."

"What if the data are being stolen or leaked," Ophir asked. "What if the Russians get their hands on this data? They have a history of hacking into our politicians' emails."

Coates said there's no way to guarantee that Covenant Eyes as a company has security measures in place to prevent such attempts from hostile nations.

"So you can imagine this company is now immediately a target of foreign nation-states," Coates said. "We could probably assume that if a foreign entity such as Russia, China, North Korea wanted to breach their security, they probably could. So now they have essentially inside access to the wiretapping software that's installed on the speaker's devices, which is terrifying."

"Ironically," Ophir said, "it reminds me of how the Republicans doubled down on Hillary's private servers back in today and framing her as a threat to national security. But now you have this guy just sharing his data."

Covenant Eyes did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

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