Whisper found to be tracking users, sharing info

Nate Swanner - Oct 16, 2014, 11:45am CDT
Whisper found to be tracking users, sharing info

You’d think an anonymous app would let you be, well, anonymous. Whisper, which promises users they’re safe from things like being known, have come under fire today. It seems their service is guilty of tracking the location of users, and sharing that info. While that might not sound over-the-top, Whisper is also tracking the location data of people who specifically ask not to be tracked. It seems Whisper is also sharing some info with Government agencies like the Department of Defense.


Whisper is apparently letting the DoD know if messages are generated from military bases. The reason behind this wasn’t known, but it may have to do with protecting sensitive security info (think “I just loaded a plane with bombs and I’m sad about that”). Whisper also shares info with the FBI and MI5, to which the Guardian’s privacy experts agree is a necessary practice in some instances, but say Whisper’s terms of service use a “lower legal threshold” for sharing that info.

Whisper is also storing data on their servers, even though they claim never to do that. Information kept includes time and location of posts, but not personal info like names or phone numbers. This data storage technique is also infinite.

Whisper is also monitoring users it believes could be “newsworthy”, say someone who reliably gets un-announced info right or has something sensational to say that turns out to be true. The Guardian reports Whisper is currently tracking someone who claims to be a lobbyist in Washington D.C., and reportedly said “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”.

Even if you opt out of location tracking, Whisper is believed to be tracking the longitude and latitude of your phone based on posts. That’s roughly 20% of users, according to The Guardian, who recently visited Whisper to explore a professional partnership. Whisper and The Guardian have worked together before in sourcing people potentially interesting for article fodder.

Being notified of the story, Whisper has introduced language into their terms that notes users may be tracked to some extent, and that info may be shared. This news is potentially damaging for Whisper, though, especially as other anonymous services start popping up, including a potential Facebook app that could pose a big challenge to Whisper.

Source: The Guardian


Must Read Bits & Bytes