Journal of Information & Privacy Law

Whisper Woes

By Jennifer Hunter, Production Editor on Sunday, October 26th, 2014
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Recently, the Guardian published an expose about the popular secret-sharing app, Whisper.  Whisper, launched in 2012, allows users post and view their most intimate secrets with complete anonymity . . . or, at least that’s what they claim.  If what the Guardian published is true, Whisper users are in for a surprise because their “whispers” are not secret at all.

Whisper creates their illusion of anonymity through not requiring users to register and allowing users to turn off geo-location services.  In Whisper’s privacy policy, the company states they only keep user data for “a brief period of time.”  However, the Guardian claims that Whisper has retained all the user data for every post and message since the service’s launch in 2012.  Whisper is able to use this data to track individual users through their IP addresses, identifying even the users who have turned off geo-location services within 500 feet.  The Guardian claims that Whisper is not only using this information to track users, they are also giving this information to the Department of Defense.

The Guardian’s article has created quite the backlash against the popular app.  Saturday, Whisper’s CEO responded to the article on a blog post.  An iOS expert analyzed the app and it “does not appear to be a social networking application with analytics; it appears to be an analytics and user acquisition application that also happens to have a social networking component.”  It looks like the whistle has been blown for the app is marketed as the “safest place on the Internet.”

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