Can Anonymous Apps be Trusted With Our Privacy?

Anonymous apps promise users anonymity, but do as they please with the data.

anonymous apps

There has been a boom in the use of anonymous apps this year, as users seek alternative messaging solutions. While social media users can often be their own worst enemies, many seek a more private or anonymous experience. Unfortunately, the purported “privacy” may be more detrimental than no privacy at all.

According to the Guardian, Whisper is one of the worst offenders. The article notes a litany of practices that Whisper employs, from sharing information with the Department Of Defense, to infinitely storing deleted user data and tracking users who explicitly opted out of geo-tagging. The data handed over to the DoD has been explained, and the Guardian’s report has been called ‘alarmist,’ but that doesn’t answer all of the questions. Whisper staffers have been suspended pending an internal investigation on the matter.

VentureBeat notes that hackers also pose significant threats to anonymous services. Contributor Ruth Reader points out that Secret has been hacked, as has Snapchat, and Snapchat has even been sued by the FTC for misrepresenting the security of the service.

The issue with anonymous services is that time and again, we discover they’re nowhere near as secure as they claim, and user data is almost never anonymous. Indeed, privacy is just an illusion, and the social media companies often have a different definition of privacy altogether. However, as more information about these apps comes to light, users may be less inclined to use them.

Savvy consumers who actually read the terms of service (which they often don’t) still aren’t safe. According to Reader: “Even if consumers do research and read the TOS, there is a certain level of blind faith required to believe that apps like Secret and Whisper are secure and abiding by the practices they set forth in their terms.”

But it’s clear these apps market anonymity first, and do as they please with the user data they collect. Because the anonymous apps do what every other social network does, they demonstrate over and over again that they can’t be trusted.