[Updated 3:00 PM] You should know by now that purportedly anonymous apps aren't really anonymous. But now, The Guardian reports that Whisper, the secret-telling app and so-called "safest place on the internet," actually tracks its users to a frightening degree of detail. Even if you opt out of location services, The Guardian says, Whisper will apparently find you.
The Guardian's investigation is full of startling details which, if true, mean that Whisper is maybe the worst place to divulge your deepest darkest secrets. In addition to tracking user locations without their consent, the company reportedly stores information long after people delete the app, and is even working with the government. A few choice quotes:
A team headed by Whisper's editor-in-chief, Neetzan Zimmerman, is closely monitoring users it believes are potentially newsworthy, delving into the history of their activity on the app and tracking their movements through the mapping tool. Among the many users currently being targeted are military personnel and individuals claiming to work at Yahoo, Disney and on Capitol Hill.
This one is especially unnerving:
When Guardian reporters visited Whisper last month, Zimmerman and another executive said that when they wanted to establish the location of individual users who are among the 20% who have opted out of geolocation services, they simply asked their technical staff to obtain the "latitude and longitude" of the phones they had used.
Zimmerman, a former Gawker writer who's now making a push to turn Whisper posts into news, responded to the Guardian report almost immediately with a vehement denial:
Then, Zimmerman gets aggressive…
Inevitably, the blogger-turned-Whisper chief said again and again that Whisper doesn't actually track users' location—at least not exactly. He tweeted to this effect several times:
Regardless of whether The Guardian's investigation is entirely accurate, media companies immediately distanced themselves from Whisper after the story broke. BuzzFeed, for one, put its partnership on hold. "We're taking a break from our partnership until Whisper clarifies to us and its users the policy on user location and privacy," said a spokesperson.
This is certainly just the beginning of a back-and-forth between Whisper and investigative reporters who want to expose its inner workings. But if the app is as horrible and invasive as The Guardian reports it is—or if there's even a chance—you might want to tell your secrets somewhere else. [The Guardian]