Viral "Honesty App" Sarahah Discovered Stealing User Data

Hit App Sarahah Quietly Uploads Your Address Book

Sarahah is estimated to have been downloaded by over 18 million people worldwide from Apple and Google's online stores and until recently, it reportedly ranked number three on the most downloaded free app for iPhones and iPads.

However, it now appears that the app is collecting more just than feedback messages.

Sarahah's popularity skyrocketed in the US, UK and other western as well as Asian countries earlier this year, after Arab expats in Canada began using the app, Mashable reported. He further said that the feature got "delayed due to a technical issue". This app allegedly steals your phone's contacts and transfers them to the company's server. Although in certain cases it asks for permission to access contacts, it does not disclose that it uploads such data.

Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, Sarahah's founder informed that the contacts were uploaded for "for a planned "find your friends" feature" which is yet to be released. When he downloaded Sarahah to his Android phone, a monitoring software installed on the device alerted him to the fact that the app was uploading his private data. At the same time, it is also worth noting that the app does work well even when users don't allow the app to access contacts.

Sarahah is designed with the objective to allow people to message its users anonymously. He claims that the database doesn't "host contacts" at the moment.

According to Julian, the app, quietly harvests and uploads its user's phone contacts to the company's servers including all phone numbers and email addresses stored in one's device's address books. "See which of your contacts are on Snapchat!" and the popup on iOS clearly says that the contacts will be uploaded to Snapchat's servers "so you and others can find friends, and to improve your experience".

On both iOS and Android, Sarahah asks user permission to access phone contacts so it's not as if this is completely surprising.

They also suggest teens who use the app to remove themselves from the search function and only share usernames with people they know.

Still, if Sarahah intends to continue scooping up user's contact data via mobile apps, Julian believes a more responsible path for the company would be to specifically inform the user about what data they are giving up and where it is going - and to provide them with a legitimate reason as to why the app actually needs it. For users who are anxious about their privacy on Sarahah, you can go to the Sarahah website and remove your account from the app.

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