Two reporters for The Guardian spent three days at the headquarters of Whisper, a popular anonymous app that lets millions of people share their deepest, darkest secrets.
The reporters were there to explore a journalistic partnership with Whisper and came away with a damning exposé about the Los Angeles-based startup, which was recently valued at $US200 million.
The Guardian reporters, Paul Lewis and Dominic Rushe, say Whisper tracks the locations of some users even after they tried to turn off geolocation services.
Further allegations include:
- “User data, including Whisper postings that users believe they have deleted, is collated in a searchable database.”
- “Whisper’s policy toward sharing user data with law enforcement has prompted it on occasions to provide information to both the FBI and MI5.”
- “The company is cooperating with the US Department of Defence, sharing information with researchers investigating the frequency of mentions of suicide or self-harm from smartphones that Whisper knows are being used from US military bases.”
Lewis and Rushe mention one particular Whisper user who frequently posts about disturbing sexual fetishes. The company has allegedly located him (and other suspicious users) by analysing his mobile IP addresses — something that reportedly wasn’t mentioned in Whisper’s initial terms of service, though it was recently added.
“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,” a Whisper executive reportedly said.
Whisper’s editor in chief, Neetzam Zimmerman, said on Twitter that The Guardian’s report is a “pack of vicious lies” and that the publication “made a mistake posting that story and will regret it.”
The Guardian says its writers were never told they couldn’t report on information obtained during their Whisper headquarters visit.
“The Guardian’s piece is lousy with falsehoods,” Zimmerman tweets. “We will be debunking them all. Much more to come.”
Neither Zimmerman nor CEO Michael Heyward have returned a request for comment.