Apps

The Guardian Backpedals, Says Whisper Doesn't Actually Spy on Users

The Guardian Backpedals, Says Whisper Doesn't Actually Spy on Users
Image credit: Kit | Flickr

Five months after publishing a damning report on Whisper, the Guardian is backtracking.

On Tuesday, the U.K. newspaper issued a clarification for a series of articles about Whisper that alleged the secret-sharing app overstepped boundaries to monitor and collect data from users. As part of these clarification efforts, the paper removed an opinion piece entitled "Think you can Whisper privately? Think again." 

While the opinion piece has been removed, much of the Guardian's coverage of Whisper in October focused on the app's lack of privacy and the company's ability to collect data from users, based on evidence that is now being heavily "clarified." In October, the newspaper alleged that Whisper tracked users' locations and other information, sometimes without permission. In the clarification, the Guardian notes that Whisper only tracks users' IP addresses, which any Internet company would receive and are unreliable indicators of location. The clarification also states that while Whisper worked with the U.S. Department of Defense's Suicide Prevention Office, the company did not share personal data and the app did not store data outside the U.S.

Related: Q&A With Whisper CEO Michael Heyward: We Are Your 'Stranger on a Train'

Additionally, the Guardian confirmed that Whisper drafted changes to its terms of service and privacy policy prior to learning the Guardian was intending to write about the company's policies. Originally, the Guardian suggested that the changes to the terms of serves were a direct response to the Guardian's investigation into the company's practices.

"The Guardian did not report that any of Whisper’s activities were unlawful," reads the clarification. "However, we are happy to clarify that there is no evidence for that suggestion."

Related: Report: Snapchat Raising $200 Million From Alibaba at $15 Billion Valuation

While many of the most damaging points have been disproved, the Guardian's takedown of Whisper led to problems for the company that a simple clarification can't patch up. Following the exposé, Buzzfeed suspended its partnership with the company and Whisper suspended staff to conduct an internal investigation, with a number of employees leaving or being terminated.

According to the Guardian's clarification, Whisper still contests many other aspects of the newspaper's reporting. 

"We appreciate the Guardian issuing the corrections and setting the record straight," Whisper said in a statement. "For us, this isn’t about vindication. It is vital that our users and partners know that Whisper is and always has been totally committed to the privacy of everyone who uses our product."

Related: From Snapchat to Whisper: Blindly Trusting Companies With Your Privacy Is Stupid

Edition: December 2016

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