Is Anonymous Social Media App Sarahah Tracking User Data?
Reports Suggest Sarahah Is Tracking Users.
The concept of an anonymous social media app should be that everything on there is shared anonymously. There have been many reports recently that this may not quite be the case with recently popular Sarahah.
We’ve taken a delve into exactly what the potential privacy threat is with Sarahah, and whether it may be using your private data. Before we can go into the data Sarahah may be gathering from its users, let’s first take a look at what the app is and where it first started.
The Origins of Sarahah
Sarahah was originally created by a Saudi-Arabian startup in an attempt to offer employees an opportunity to share anonymous feedback to their bosses and managers. By making sure the messages were anonymous, employees could share their feedback without the fear of being laid off.
The Sarahah developers have made sure that at the front-end there’s absolutely no way of knowing who sent a message. It’s this anonymity-fueled feature that managed to turn Sarahah into a viral social media sensation. Since then, Sarahah has quickly become the most widely used social media app, and it’s developed far past it’s original design as an app for employees and employers.
The Privacy Scare Claims
Recently, a researcher dug into the Sarahah code to learn more about how it works and what kind of information it does or doesn’t share with its users. For the most part, everything looked as clean as an anonymous social media app should. However, one thing cropped up that the researcher considered a big red flag.
According to Bishop Fox’s senior security analyst Zachary Julian, the Sarahah app was gathering his contact list data whilst running a smartphone on Android 5.1.1. Zachary Julian used a tool that monitored what network data went in and out of his device and noticed that data about his contacts was being relayed back to the Sarahah servers.
This is the big scare that has caught media attention recently. After further interaction with the Sarahah developers, we can confirm that this contact list grabbing has been implemented in preparation for a ‘find your friends’ feature for the app.
In the future, users will be able to use this feature to find their friends on Sarahah. The app will go through your contact list to see which numbers have associated Sarahah accounts. This feature has already been implemented in the majority of social media apps and it’s nothing to be concerned about.
It should also be noted that if you’re running Android 6.0 or higher, you’ll be given the option to deny contact list permission when Sarahah asks for it.
Sarahah developer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq also took to Twitter to announce that Sarahah doesn’t hold any contact information on their servers; “The Sarahah database doesn’t currently hold a single contact.” Tawfiq also mentioned that the ‘find a friend’ feature was delayed due to a technical issue. The developer also promised that the data transfer will be removed in a future update and will remain that way until the find a friend feature is ready for implementation.
So, in summary, Sarahah isn’t tracking your personal details. It isn’t using any SMS tracking techniques or other strategies to steal your data. All in all, Sarahah is, for the time being, a safe app that doesn’t snoop in on any data besides your contact list. And even then, this can be blocked if you’re running Android 6.0 or higher.
You should certainly be more concerned about what data ad-supported apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are gathering about you, as opposed to a smaller anonymous social media app like Sarahah that doesn’t yet have any ad-focused monetization networks in place.