Be Careful Who You Share Your Secrets With

Updated: Feb 25, 2019

Image by Olichel on Pixabay

Imagine that your thirteen-year-old daughter is putting her deepest darkest secrets on the Internet? Now imagine that these messages and secrets are being sent to anyone on the app within a certain radius. Now imagine that whoever sees those confessions knows where your daughter is, and you have no idea who these people are. The thought that a stranger knows where your child is and knows her confessions is at the very least unsettling.

Whisper is such an app with a history of the above issues. It has been described as the modern-day, social-media version of the Catholic confessional. It is completely anonymous- it does not require a profile, connections, an email address, or age verification. All a new user must do is create a username and select their age group (or what should be their age group). Reporters in Los Angeles experimented with the app by selecting the 15-17-year age group. They received several messages from men much older than 17. Their research confirmed that “a lot of older men like using the app to have sexual relationships with young, underage girls.” This is further confirmed by actual convictions, like a Grand Rapids man “who was found guilty of soliciting naked pictures from underage girls through the chat feature” or the Seattle man who “admitted to using the app to have sex with a 12- year-old girl.” The dangers of this app are not just conjecture, which explains why the Fargo Police Department decided that it belongs on the list of the five most dangerous apps.

As if the fact that any random pedophile can access your child through this app is not scary enough, listen to the Whisper privacy policy. “You acknowledge and agree that transmissions over the Internet can never be completely secure and you understand that any message and/or information that you transmit to us might be intercepted and read by others.” In other words, you have no privacy, and if the deep dark secrets you are now posting leak, oh well. That privacy policy does not sound reassuring. On top of that, they state within their requirements that a user must be at least 13 years old, and anyone between 13 and 18 years old must have parental permission and supervision to use the app. However, there is no age verification, and a user can randomly select whichever age group they want to communicate with. Since location services must be on to use the app, any random forty-year-old man can access a 12-year-old girl through the app. There is absolutely no way to know who you are talking to.

Besides these rather unsettling characteristics, there are other red flags. One of these is simply the content. Keep in mind that the most common audience for the app is teens under seventeen years of age. The most common confessions on Whisper are as follows:

1. I am pregnant/ I want to be pregnant

2. Relationship Issues- whether abuse or secret annoyances, etc.

3. Everything is Terrible- just overall dramatic griping sessions

4. The Breakup

5. I need advice- scary when you know who that advice is coming from

6. Unpopular opinions- because that is what you do on social media

7. I am lost and alone- depression and suicidal thoughts

8. Random embarrassing personal facts

9. I am broke

Another red flag is the anonymity of the app, which can be dangerous for another reason- it promotes online recklessness. The only connection you actually have to the post is your IP address (which can be hacked and accessed). This gives teens a false sense of security and encourages them to post unsavory confessions that may come back to haunt them. On top of that, Whisper is planning to eventually monetize on the confessions as “content” much like Twitter or BuzzFeed.

As a company committed to online safety, Whisper is an app we do not recommend in the least. The lack of parental controls, the risqué nature of the content, and the sexual history of the crimes committed through the app make this app too risky. It is better to find a friend to reveal your deep secrets to.

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