Whisper, the angsty, affirming app that lets users anonymously share secrets, also tracks their locations even after they’ve opted out of geolocation services, according to a report from The Guardian.
The report is dramatic from top to bottom, beginning with the fact that The Guardian unearthed much of the information about Whisper after meeting with company representatives several times regarding a potential journalistic partnership.*
Among The Guardian’s findings:
- Whisper keeps data, including location details, in a permanent and searchable database.
- Like many tech companies, Whisper has given up information to the FBI and the Department of Defense regarding users who they believe are in imminent danger, but the company “appeared to require a lower legal threshold for providing user information to authorities than other tech companies.”
- Whisper appears to track users’ location even after they opt out of geolocation. When The Guardian asked the company about this, it reportedly rewrote its terms of service to “explicitly permit the company to establish the broad location of people who have disabled the app’s geolocation feature.”
Neetzan Zimmerman, Whisper’s editor-in-chief, has not taken kindly to the report:
We’ve reached out to Whisper for comment and will update if we hear back.
Update: In light of the Guardian’s findings, Buzzfeed had temporarily stopped its editorial partnership with Whisper.
Update 2: Zimmerman has responded with…a tweetstorm.
*Disclosure: While working at Time, I also met briefly with Whisper reps regarding a partnership, but never ended up working with them.