The Senate commerce committee has asked Whisper to address a report that said the social media app, which promises user anonymity, tracked its users including those who opted out of its geolocation tool.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who chairs the committee, requested the briefing with Whisper’s Chief Executive Michael Heyward, saying he has made consumer privacy a “top priority.”
“I take this matter seriously,” Rockefeller said in a statement.
Heyward offered the following response: “We share the Senator's interest in protecting consumer privacy and will respond shortly. Though we disagree with the Guardian’s reporting, we welcome the discussion and opportunity to correct the record.”
The Guardian last Thursday reported the Santa Monica startup was actively keeping tabs on the locations of where users posted information and stored data such as names, phone numbers and email addresses. Whisper is also accused of changing its terms and conditions days after it learned of the planned report.
Those allegations have now prompted a federal query into whether Whisper tracks, stores and shares user information and whether it changed its privacy and data security policies without notifying users.
The Guardian said it learned of Whisper’s practices during a tour of its headquarters while exploring a possible journalistic partnership. The U.K. outlet has since ended its relationship with the startup. BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and cable channel Fusion have also dropped their Whisper collaborations.
“It is questionable, at best, whether users seeking to post anonymously on the ‘safest place on the Internet’ would expect that WhisperText has information sharing relationships with third parties such as media organizations,” Rockefeller said.
Whisper has denied the Guardian’s allegations. Editor-in-Chief Neetzan Zimmerman took to Twitter hours after the Guardian report was published to defend the app. Heyward also penned a blog post that maintained the startup’s dedication to protecting users’ privacy.
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