Anonymous secret-sharing app Whisper has placed some of its employees on administrative leave following a report that called some of its business practices into question.
Last week, The Guardian published an exposé on Whisper, alleging that the app tracks some of its users, even when they have opted out of its geolocation tool. It was alarming because Whisper prides itself on being a completely anonymous; a community where it’s safe to share any secret, however deep or dark. Further, The Guardian alleged that Whisper sometimes shares user location information with authorities when it deems necessary.
The Guardian reporters initially traveled to Whisper’s Santa Monica headquarters as part of a journalistic partnership. But while they were there, they say they saw and heard things that contradicted Whisper’s mission to have a completely anonymous and safe application.
When The Guardian’s report first came out, Whisper’s editor-in-chief Neetzan Zimmerman was quick to deflect the story on Twitter as “full of lousy falsehoods.” A 5-page email, which Whisper says was sent to The Guardian before it published the expose, denied many of The Guardian’s allegations.
Whisper hasn’t said which employees are on leave, however Zimmerman has hardly sent any public messages on Twitter in a week.
Now, Whisper is being called before the Senate commerce committee to discuss privacy concerns that were reported by The Guardian. The Guardian asked Whisper to answer ten questions for the committee, such as: “How did Whisper obtain the broad location of some users who opted out of geolocation services?”
“We share the Senator’s interest in protecting consumer privacy and will respond shortly,” Heyward wrote in a statement given to Business Insider. “We welcome the discussion and opportunity to correct the record.”
Heyward also says Whisper is launching an internal investigation into The Guardian’s report. From his statement:
“I wrote last Saturday that we welcome the current discussion around Whisper, and are grateful to those who have shared thoughtful feedback with us. We care deeply about our users, and will continue to communicate openly about how we operate.
In that light, it’s important that the facts are presented clearly and honestly. An article posted yesterday continues to misrepresent how we operate. Below I have annotated the story, in the interests of getting the facts straight. As I have said, we strive to do right by all our users, and we continue to look into the unattributed quotes in the Guardian’s stories. We have placed members of the editorial team involved with the Guardian’s visit on leave, pending the results of our internal review.
Neetzan’s reaction to the Guardian’s allegations has taken away from the substance of the issue, which is that much of the Guardian’s reporting on this issue has been highly misleading or just plain wrong.
Co-Founder and CEO, Whisper
Here’s all of Heyward’s answers to The Guardian’s questions, below.
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