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Whisper, Not As Anonymous As It Seems

Say It Quietly, But...

While most social media networks now ask you a load of personal questions, forcing you to reveal all sorts of details about your life, Whisper has a significantly different approach. Whisper lets you post intimate details about your life, from hating your step-mother to more serious posts about sexual and even physical abuse. The sort of thing you wouldn't post on your Facebook and Twitter; details about your life that you want to stay hidden.

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, the popular app does not demand usernames or real identities and creates a safe place for you to post your deepest and darkest secrets. Michael Hayward, founder and CEO of Whisper has even gone so far as call the app: "the safest place on the internet". While Whisper has already received some backlash for enabling cyber-bullying, the Guardian has revealed an even darker side to the social media network.
The Guardian sent two journalists to Whisper's offices in order to determine whether they would set up a working relationship with Whisper, a little bit like the agreement between Buzzfeed and the anonymous app. However, what they discovered there prompted them to decide not to use Whisper ever again.

The Guardian revealed that Whisper is tracking the location of its users, even those who have asked not to be followed. Thanks to geolocation services, Whisper can pinpoint the exact location of a user within a 500 mile radius. Due to the anonymity of its users, Whisper has no way of knowing if the post is true or not. And so, if someone claims to be a university student, Whisper will track its location to determine if the person has spent time on a University Campus. The same goes for users claiming to be in the Army.

This might not seem like a serious breach of privacy, but when you think about it, it really is. Knowing someone's exact location could lead to finding out that user's actual identity. Furthermore, users that had chosen to not use the geolocation services could still be tracked using their IP address.

After the Guardian published these articles on Whisper's own dark secret, the anonymous social media network reacted immediately, claiming that what had been written wasn't true. However, a few days later, Whisper has changed its terms of service. It went from saying its geolocation services were voluntary to warning users that opt out of it that their location could still be monitored. Some similar subtle changes were made throughout the terms of service such as that Whisper will reveal information to law enforcement agencies.
Whisper is denying the Guardian's claims, but did alter its terms of service, revealing that their clauims had some basis of truth. However, now Whisper is actually telling its users its dirty little secret, and users who read the terms of service will discover that Whisper isn't necessarily the anonymous app it markets itself to be.
The moral of the story? You have to weary of all social media networks and watch what you post online - even if the app markets itself as 'anonymous'.


Laura is a recent graduate from University of East Anglia in Film and Television Studies, currently interning as a content writer but hoping to one day live off her writing. Follow her @LauraAtSMF.

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Whisper, Not As Anonymous As It Seems Reviewed by Laura Veit on Thursday, October 23, 2014 Rating: 5
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