Monday, 3 November 2014

Privacy Apps for Online Anonymity

Privacy Apps
With the increasing usage of internet and reliability on the web, privacy is the first concern in anyone’s mind. When they get online they want to ensure that they have complete privacy. With the smart phones coming up with apps offering anonymous messaging service, the latest attraction is the privacy protection technology, which is claiming to provide expression, location-based confession, and anonymous discussion platforms. Apart from the advantages these apps are offering, there are some serious issues like bullying platform as well as a false sense of anonymity security

Whisper, Yik Yak or Secret, anonymising social media apps like this are basically identifying all your personal data through the platform they run on. Almost all the apps available require accessing a considerable amount of your personal details as well as location information.

These data are often used for geo-locating the user for location sensitive data and post, but it also tracks you as the unique user of the apps through unique identifiers associated with your posts and data. These unique identifiers are specific to the device like the IP address, usage pattern and the phone’s IMEI number.

These unique identifiers can be easily used for blocking any abusive user, tracking software errors, sending push notifications and enable other features of the phones. On the flip side, we can clearly see that the so called anonymity is nowhere available. The service company of the user can be asked for handing over the user data if required by government or law enforcement. The fact is that all the above mentioned anonymous apps have this information mentioned in their privacy statements.

Contrary to some other apps which make no such claims, apps like Whisper who have claimed to provide anonymity is simply incorrect. These companies can, however lure a person based on their security statements and may cause damage which can come back to haunt the user. The truth is that these apps can’t provide the anonymity that you are looking for. The true meaning of anonymity lies in complete identity and technical anonymity.

Anonymity should be something which doesn’t allow the user to be tracked through geo-location, their IP address, usage patterns and other forms of phone identification. This can be achieved through robust usage of technologies like Tor properly.

Till this is achieved, what one should receive is the pseudonymity through which the app developers promise data accessibility harder than before. Lack of anonymity can certainly help and increase the use of bullying. These apps are targeted towards young people and school going children who are particularly susceptible to bullying.

App like Yik Yak has been working out on ways to tackle bullying by blocking the users who use abusive or offensive language and posts. They have been constantly removing negatively rated posts, but still there is a considerable amount of bullying problem.

The Society is looking for apps which will ensure that their children and young people are safe from bullying by building safeguards in the social media technology. Anonymity is very difficult and today’s society is shaping up technology, which shapes up the society in turn. Users need to be aware of the potential problems before trusting any app offering complete anonymity.

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