Your Favorite Anonymous App Is Not Anonymous At All

Gizmodo › Adam Clark Estes

Security researchers recently discovered a serious flaw in Yik Yak, the “anonymous” messaging app popular with teens. In surprisingly simple fashion, the flaw offered hackers a way to discover the identities of Yik Yak’s supposedly unnamed users. It also provides a good opportunity to issue this very important PSA: Anonymous apps aren’t anonymous at all, and they probably never will be.

Why? It’s just too hard to pull off with with any degree of certainty. Yik Yak is only the latest purportedly anonymous app to expose identifiable user data. By now, every single one of the most popular anonymous messaging apps—Secret, Whisper, Yik Yak, and the non-anonymous but supposedly self-destructing Snapchat—has been breached in some form or another.

These are all social networking apps with millions of users, users they promise will remain anonymous. The trend of exploits suggests that building a truly anonymous app is a bit of an impossible dream in an ecosystem filled with GPS coordinates, app store accounts, phone numbers, password keychains, and any other data point that could expose a user’s identity. Yet still the promises get made.