Whisper app users have believed they're free from any ties to real-world identities using the app, but a new report says Whisper retains information on users who no longer use the app and tracks users even when location reporting is turned off.
Whisper is an iOS and Android app that encourages its users to communicate with one another using pseudonyms that are unattached to their real-world identities. Whisper users can respond to each other publicly or privately, though there's no way to build correspondence with an individual who uses the app besides replying to messages he or she posts.
Whisper's location feature allows its users to speak anonymously with nearby Whisper users. Users have the ability to turn off location tracking, but a recent report from The Guardian asserts that Whisper still loosely tracks individuals who opt out of being tracked.
"We occasionally look at user IP addresses internally to determine very approximate location. User IP addresses may allow very coarse location to be determined to the city, state or country level," stated Whisper. "Whisper does not request or store any personally identifiable information from users, therefore there is never a breach of anonymity," the company stated. "From time to time, when a user makes a claim of a newsworthy nature, we review the user's past activity to help determine veracity."
Along with keeping tabs on users who opt out of location reporting, Whisper is also accused of retaining information its users have deleted. The report states the following:
The company has no access to users' names or phone numbers, but is storing information about the precise time and approximate location of all previous messages posted through the app. The data, which stretches back to the app's launch in 2012, is being stored indefinitely, a practice seemingly at odds with Whisper's stated policy of holding the data only for "a brief period of time."
While not quite as personal and intrusive as Facebook's controversial study on user's moods, Whisper is said to be feeding user data to the U.S. Department of Defense to aid the organization in research on suicide among military personnel. Whisper also shares user information with the FBI and MI-5, though its asserts that the data only pertains to posts containing threats to national security.
The Guardian's report also assert's that Whisper's editor-in-chief, Neetzan Zimmerman, leads a team that tracks Whisper users the group feels are of note, searching chat and location histories to pinpoint prominent figures that range from government officials to executives of large organizations.