Sarahah Has Been Downloading All the Data In Your Address Book

It's been dubbed "the honesty app" because it allows users to give constructive criticism anonymously but the Canadian Centre for Child Protection warns it has quickly turned into a platform for cyberbullying and harassment.

The app, which is fast gaining popularity has been downloaded by over 18 million people from Apple and Google's online stores, according to estimates, making it the number three most downloaded free software title for iPhones and iPads.

However, it now appears that the app is collecting more just than feedback messages. Interestingly, the app was doing the same for the devices running on iOS. "The database doesn't now host contacts and the data request will be removed on next update", he continues. Rest assured though (we hope) - the app's privacy policy notes that it will "will never sell the data you provide to any third party" without users' prior and written consent unless part of bulk data used only for research and does not identify the user.

It was delayed due to a technical issue. So, if you allowed the app to access your contact initially at the time of installation, then your phone's contacts are saved on the company's server. On Android, the app in some cases requests access to contacts without giving any need for needing such access, and in other cases makes no such request.

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Sarahah's founder, Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq, states that a partner was supposed to remove the coding to gather the user's contacts, but has since stopped working with the company. Apparently, the app is uploading users' phone numbers and email addresses in the address book to the company's servers, which was spotted by Zachary Julian, a senior security analyst at Bishop Fox when he installed the app on his Android smartphone, a Galaxy S5 running Android 5.1.1.

"As soon as you log into the application, it transmits all of your email and phone contacts stored on the Android operating system", Julian told to The Intercept. In the privacy policy page, it has been stated specifically that if it plans to use your data, it will ask for consent. Although the app does seek permission to access users' phone data, it refrains from disclosing what kind of data it collects.

Julian added that the app does this all over again if you use it after a break. Sarahah privacy concerns are now on the rise as the app has been reported to be stealing contact data. On both iOS and Android, there is no mention of data being uploaded to a server.

Sarahah has been quite a sensation, the anonymous app has been in the limelight since past couple of weeks. Over 54 per cent of Android users are using older versions which do not have these permissions, and users need to be savvy enough to know where to find app permissions are (Settings Apps Gear button App Permissions). The site does not ask for permissions to access contacts from any of your address books.

  • Desiree Holland