Anonymous App Whisper Tracks Users, Gives Info to Government | NBC Bay Area
Press Here
SUNDAYS @ 9 AM
NBC BAY AREA

Anonymous App Whisper Tracks Users, Gives Info to Government

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Whisper

    Anonymous app Whisper promises its users anonymity when they post on its social network, but in reality its parent company is tracking users and sharing information with the government.

    The problem is that many of Whisper's users bought into the idea of anonymity on the Internet (foolish, we know!) and specifically opted out of geolocation tracking -- all to find out that there was no such thing, according to the Guardian. So, those posting about personal and intimate details about their lives should probably stop. 

    Whisper also hands over information from smartphones around military bases to the U.S. Department of Defense.

    Whisper denied that it tracked users, but four days after hearing the Guardian would publish its story, rewrote its terms of service and privacy policy.

    Whereas the previous terms and conditions described all of Whisper’s tracking of user location as “voluntary”, the new terms now warn users to “bear in mind that, even if you have disabled location services, we may still determine your city, state, and country location” .  .  .  It now warns users[in its privacy policy] that turning on the app’s geolocation feature may “allow others, over time, to make a determination as to your identity”.

    The Guardian's in-depth piece (it was exploring a partnership with the app at the time, but now it's not) told of the executives tracking certain "newsworthy" users based on their descriptions, such as a "sex-obsessed lobbyist" in Washington or soldiers on the front lines in war zones. Apparently the technology allows the company to monitor all messages from a specific area including the Pentagon and National Security Agency, as well as individual user behavior over a period of time. From the report: 

    User data, including Whisper postings that users believe they have deleted, is collated in a searchable database. The company has no access to users’ names or phone numbers, but is storing information about the precise time and approximate location of all previous messages posted through the app. The data, which stretches back to the app’s launch in 2012, is being stored indefinitely, a practice seemingly at odds with Whisper’s stated policy of holding the data only for “a brief period of time”.

    The whole report is the antithesis of what Whisper founders said the app was going to be. “Whisper isn’t actually about concealing identity. It’s about a complete absence of identity,” said the company’s founder and chief executive Michael Heyward, according to the Guardian. “The concept around Whisper is removing the concept of identity altogether, so you’re not as guarded.”
    From the report, it seems that its users should be much, much more guarded now.