In this world of social media and oversharing, you’d think an app that allowed you to remain completely anonymous would be a good thing, right? And in some respects, the Secret app does encourage people to open up and share – free of judgement. But how well is the company able to keep these secrets private, and can you ever really escape the glaring eye of the internet?
First, let’s talk about privacy. Co-founder David Byttow (Chrys Bader is also co-founder) posted a lengthy and fairly detailed post on the Secret blog about just how secure you most private thoughts are using this app. Data is stored on the same servers as Google’s Gmail, there is lots of encryption so that no one knows your phone number (you have to give it up to register), and your metadata is stored without referencing your user info. Other failsafe additions include a two-man rule that’s supposed to ensure no one person at Secret can find a post created by a specific user. There’s more info in the blog post about how people are allowed to see you secrets and how your contacts are treated as well. But even if it takes some hacker an extra few months to figure out how to crack the code on your personal info, the NSA scandal should have taught all of us that at a minimum, no one is truly safe from the prying eyes of the U.S. government.
And what about content? The founders’ idealistic notion that Secret would be a place where people could be themselves, speak freely, and have their thoughts travel worldwide sounds wonderful – but what about those thoughts that only seek to belittle, demean, or bully? There will be a way to report abusive or offensive language and behavior, but I’ve already seen some less than polite comments on the app and I can’t help but wonder how this issue will be managed when and if the user ranks swell into the millions. As is already shown with every other social network, not everyone’s intentions are pure. And when you add anonymity to the mix, it always seems that young people, some of the most vulnerable on the web, suffer from the effects of having free reign to say whatever you want.
I’m very torn about this, because the app itself is actually really nice. It has a clean, elegant design and is easy to use. I was also a big fan of the PostSecret app that was discontinued (for some of the same reasons I stated here), so I can appreciate what the folks at Secret are trying to do. But unfortunately, the world can be a cruel place. And giving people this type of anonymous and relatively unfettered access to others, while not being able to guarantee their privacy could be just asking for trouble.