Whisper App Accused of Not Being Anonymous After All

Company denies Guardian's reports of tracking users

Dark social just got darker. Indirect Snapchat leaks were only the beginning. Now, our trusted anonymous apps like Whisper aren’t so trusted after The Guardian found that the company tracks user location that could likely be used to identify a user.

If you don’t know what Whisper is, it's a message board for users to post whatever comes to mind, under the assumption their identities remain hidden.

The app competes with other dark social rivals like Secret and Yik Yak, and it’s a space of big interest to Facebook. The media also enjoys the app because it can offer insights into sensitive topics such as war veterans sounding off on post-traumatic stress.

The media, Adweek included, have run with stories that quote the anonymous users, just like stories that rely on Twitter comments.

The platform can be an interesting glimpse into mass sentiment and reaction to topics of the day, and the supposed secretive nature encourages candor.

That’s why The Guardian’s team, digitally based in New York City, visited Whisper recently to see if a media partnership, like the one BuzzFeed had, could work. However, there will be no partnership, after The Guardian published a story exposing Whisper’s alleged privacy lapses.

“The company behind Whisper, the social media app that promises users anonymity and claims to be ‘the safest place on the internet,’ is tracking the location of its users, including some who have specifically asked not to be followed,” The Guardian reported.

The Guardian said that it saw how Whisper tracks the location of certain power users so it can piece together whether their posts are credible.

If a user says something juicy about Washington D.C., then Whisper wants to confirm that person is near the Capitol, a real example according to The Guardian.

The newspaper even quoted an anonymous Whisper executive: “He’s a guy that we’ll track for the rest of his life and he’ll have no idea we’ll be watching him,” the executive said, according to The Guardian.

The report was so scandalous that BuzzFeed has dropped its partnership with Whisper, and the anonymous app has had to defend itself in the press and online.

The company is flatly denying The Guardian’s claims, although the newspaper has a sound refutation of each of the app maker's points.

View our video with Whisper's editor in chief Neetzan Zimmerman from earlier this year below.