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Whisper Shouts Denials of Tracking Allegations

October 20, 2014

E-CommerceTimes.com  
By Erika Morphy

Whisper, an app that purports to send messages anonymously, has been tracking the location of its users, including those who have turned off their geolocation feature, The Guardian reported last week. Even more incendiary than the location-tracking accusation, The Guardian also alleged that Whisper has identified smartphones used at military bases and has shared information gleaned from them with the U.S. Department of Defense. The app is particularly popular with military personnel who use it to post anonymously, the paper noted.

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“When it comes to privacy, rule No. 1 for companies in e-commerce is to say what you do, and do what you say,” said Jeremy Mishkin, a partner at Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads.

“If you promise not to collect personally identifiable information and then get caught doing just that, it’s not just a legal problem — it’s a huge customer relations problem,” he told the E-Commerce Times.” There is a long list of very well-known companies who’ve been through that cycle, and have found themselves involved in consumer class actions and government investigations as a result.”

It is unclear at this point what the truth is, Mishkin said. It could be that Whisper is, as it insists, entirely innocent. It could be that it is deliberately violating users’ trust, or it could be that it started out with the best of intentions and then found it necessary to scale back its initial promises, for whatever reason.

“I don’t know whether Whisper is right or wrong, but many websites have gotten tripped up promising privacy and then compromising it, so it is not surprising that app builders are running into the same issues,” Mishkin said.

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