Sarahah – Honesty in anonymity?

For Android and iOS users Sarahah app is the latest sensation. With more than 5 million downloads this has become one of the hottest app in Android Play Store. The story is no different for iOS users as well. Sarahah means “honesty” in Arabic and this is what the app promises to provide the users with. It offers to provide honest feedback to users without compromising on anonymity. Technically, it is a messaging platform which allows you to send and receive messages in an anonymous way. A lot like the 360 feedback that is done at workplaces for individual development, Sarahah allows you to get the same feedback about your personal life as well.

Sarahah was created by Zain Alabdin Taufiq from Saudi Arabia. According to Sarahah website, the app allows you to “enhance your areas of strength and improve your friendship”. Sarahah does not allow you to respond to messages, you can either send or receive unlike other social networking platforms. Social media has a lot to do with “expressing yourself” and sarahah becomes a big hit since it allows you for an “improved expression” based on honest feedback, though the honesty comes to you in an anonymous manner.

Can anonymity cause problems for users? Sarahah is not the first anonymous app. Its predecessors like AfterSchool and YikYak were criticised heavily because it acted as a perfect platform for cyberbullying. This can happen on Sarahah as well. But then isn’t bullying an issue everywhere on Internet since it allows you to have certain amount of anonymity. If you look at reviews on play store, we could see that people are largely divided on the app. Interestingly, single star rating and five star rating are the same in number despite the five million downloads.

Other aspect is privacy. Sarahah app claims that it provides you guaranteed privacy but also goes on to mention that it will cooperate with law enforcement agencies and provide relevant data if the need arises. When it comes to law enforcement there is nothing much the app can do. But their privacy statement also says “ we will never disclose this information unless there is a law requirement or with good intention if we feel that this procedure is required or wanted to meet legal requirements or to defend or protect the ownership rights of this website or other parties benefitting from this site”. Good intentions and protection of ownership rights could get subject to interpretation. App requires access to camera, contacts and storage apart from the ability to access network for functioning. Another anonymous messaging app Whisper came in for large criticism when it was alleged that Whisper maintained location data for all its users. Sarahah does not require you to provide access to location information though.

For now, we do not know much about how the app functions and if it really respects your privacy. One can be sure that though it guarantees privacy, like any other app it also reserves the right to hand over data to a law enforcement agency. This might sound a bit worrisome for those who really want to be “honest” with the feedback, but for now social media enthusiasts have made it one of their own.