Whisper, one of the well-known apps for anonymous posting of confessions, gossip, light-hearted messages, and everything in between is being accused of tracking users’ locations and of sharing some collected data with the US Department of Defense.
More specifically, a report from The Guardian this morning claims that Whisper continues to track users’ locations, even if they’ve opted out of the geolocation service. It also claims that Whisper has “developed an in-house mapping tool that allows its staff to filter and search GPS data, pinpointing messages to within 500 meters of where they were sent” and is using that tool to track activity from and around the Pentagon. Whisper, The Guardian writes, is sharing some of the data with the U.S. Department of Defense.
Whisper editor-in-chief Nitzan Zimmerman has denied the report’s claims on Twitter:
First response: The Guardian’s piece is lousy with falsehoods, and we will be debunking them all. Much more to come.
— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) October 16, 2014
On the US Department of Defense collaboration front, the report says that Whisper has been working with it on research about suicide. Whisper’s new terms of service now state that, “We may also partner with universities or other research institutions or scientists to use the limited information we have in anonymous, controlled research studies.”
The terms also now include disclosures about Whisper’s relationship with law-enforcement organizations like the FBI and MI5:
We may monitor User Content and where deemed appropriate take proactive steps, including without limitation notification to appropriate authorities. […] You hereby expressly acknowledge and agree to such monitoring and that we may disclose information and data that might lead to your identification if we, at our sole discretion, deem it appropriate to protect you or others from serious harm.
Here is Whisper’s full response to The Guardian: