The Whisper saga continues. After The Guardian published a report on Whisper’s alleged data-tracking activities and Whisper staffers denied all the allegations, Whisper CEO Michael Heyward has suspended some editorial staffers. Whisper editor-in-chief Neetzan Zimmerman is among those suspended, reports Recode.
Some of the company’s initial denials have been called into question by the suspension and internal investigation that Whisper is now conducting. After Senator Jay Rockefeller wrote a letter summoning Heyward to a briefing on privacy issues, The Guardian published a list of of 10 questions that the company should address.
In a response to those questions, Heyward addressed Zimmerman’s assertions that The Guardian made up quotes and stories in its report:
10. Why did Whisper deny the existence of a user claiming to be a sex-obsessed lobbyist?
The only comments I’ve made on this issue were: “We always strive to do right by our users. We have zero tolerance for any employee who violates that trust.”
“Of course we’re investigating the Guardian’s unattributed quotes and I will take immediate action if we discover they’re true.”
One such executive told the reporters about an apparently sex-obsessed Whisper user who claims to be a lobbyist in Washington DC. “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 Whisper executive said. The quote was heard by two reporters, as their records of the conversation show.
I’m deeply troubled by this quote, which does not reflect our values.
Zimmerman – who was not present when the executive made the remark – described the quote about the lobbyist as “100% fabricated”. He added: “It is a fabrication because it was never said, and no such person exists.”
That person does exist. Zimmerman’s editorial team nicknamed the lobbyist ‘50 shades of grey’ and believed him to be a potentially newsworthy find. They actively encouraged the Guardian reporters to delve into the lobbyist’s history of activity on the app. The lobbyist was one of the users included in the “Potential Guardian Leads” document that Whisper provided the Guardian.
As I said earlier, we have placed members of the editorial team involved with the Guardian’s visit on administrative leave, pending the results of our internal review.
These decisions show Zimmerman’s lack of credibility, as the company is now in full damage control mode.