Anonymous Sharing Apps Create the Illusion of Privacy

As the nature of privacy continues to change, people are turning to anonymous apps for more private communication. But anonymity does not equal privacy.


Anonymous sharing apps get pretty harsh treatment, generally because they can open a path for cyberbullying and rumor spreading. But could services like these become places of positivity and hope, or are they just another example of users getting online privacy wrong?

Gossip aside, ever since Secret spread beyond the Silicon Valley epicenter, ReadWrite contributor Selena Larson noticed an increase in positive postings and behaviors. “No longer were they immature; Secrets had developed feelings and felt more human,” she wrote. “I saw requests for prayer, professions of love and pictures of cancer-free medical scans.”

Any community has the ability to be supportive, but when your real identity is tied to your confessions, you’re less likely to speak up. Larson points to the collapse of of PostSecret in January 2012 as a warning for upstarts like Secret.

Her solution is simple: moderation. “Once app makers allow the cruelty to be filtered out, anonymous apps can become the public diaries we’ve always wanted,” she writes. However, this public diary concept could be troublesome, and anonymity — or the illusion of anonymity — isn’t really privacy.

While some may consider greater anonymity an advancement in personal data protection, that’s not really the case. “Communication not only goes to Whisper but TigerText and their servers,” cryptography expert Robert Statica told Vice. He added, “Whisper tracks you even more than the NSA does.”

Vice contributor Whitney Mallett compared privacy and anonymity, and cited a number of reasons we’re simply not experiencing privacy online. She added that since our data is so very exposed to mining, users shouldn’t even have the expectation of privacy anymore.

According to Mallet, the future is grim. “[We’re entering] a phase of social media where a faux degree of anonymity will help distract us from a persistent erosion of the value of privacy,” she writes.