• Experts say the app's privacy policy has major flaws.
  • Users have shown the app accessing their photos even when denied permission.

Culture secretary Matt Hancock has become the first MP to launch his own app in a bid to push "digital democracy". However, experts have already identified significant flaws in the app's privacy policy, labelling the project "a fascinating comedy of errors".

The Matt Hancock app - available for both iOS and Android - updates users on the minister's activities and features pictures and video galleries of him.

Within hours of the launch, there were reports that Hancok's app was collecting user data even when not given permission to do so.

Silkie Carlo, the director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, told Wired, "It is quite fitting, given this government's incompetence on digital privacy issues, that our digital minister's app steals a bank of users' personal photographs, even when permission to access them is denied."

Pat Walshe, a data protection and privacy consultant who runs the Twitter account Privacy Matters, said that the privacy policy isn't linked to on Apple's App Store – a step which is required.

Walshe also says there are several parts of the UK's data protection law that Hancock's app does not comply. "For the minister responsible for General Data Protection Regulation and notwithstanding we've had current law since 1998 and ePrivacy rules since 2003, it's woeful," Walshe said.

IBTimes UK has contacted the minister's office to request a comment on the reports.

Hancock, formerly the digital minster, was promoted to culture secretary in Theresa May's recent cabinet reshuffle.

He had previously called on social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to take a more active role in battling "fake news".

The platform was built by Disciple Media, a London-based startup that lets influencers create single-purpose apps for their fans. The company has worked with the Rolling Stones.

Users can sign up as Hancock's friends and chat with others who have downloaded the app.

An autoplay video greets users. In it, Hancock says: "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, and most importantly it's a chance for you to tell me what you think, and to engage with others on issues that matter to you."

Aware of the risks of putting himself at the mercy of anonymous users, a message from the MP reads: "I want healthy, open and constructive discourse on the issues that matter to you. Offensive conduct will not be tolerated, and offenders may be removed."

"The space creates a new opportunity for direct digital democracy," a company press release said. "[It is] a means for Matt Hancock to engage constituents, and for constituents to engage with each other, in a safe, moderated digital environment via a simple-to-use smartphone app".

Despite the privacy concerns, app is quickly picking up interest on social media. While the main users so far seem to be political journalists and online trolls, time will tell if it represents a radical shift in MP-voter communication.