The new app, Saraha which gets people to leave anonymous messages to other users has apparently been collecting users contact lists without their permission.
On questioning the behaviour, Sarahah founder, Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq said that the contacts are uploaded "for a planned "find your friends" feature".
If the user has not logged into the app in a while, the app will share contact information again. Sarahah argues that this allows people from work to give constructive advice in an anonymous way, users get to know their areas of strength as well as their areas that need improvement. More intriguingly, there doesn't seem to be a reason for why the company would need to take such an ill-advised action in the app's current form.
But, online publication The Intercept recently uncovered the app's not-so-honest functionality in an article published on August 27 titled 'Hit App Sarahah Quietly Uploads Your Address Book'. Although the app does seek permission to access users' phone data, it refrains from disclosing what kind of data it collects.
Sarahah app is uploading your entire contacts book to their server and this is not good news for privacy. The same occurrence was later determined on Apple's iOS too, although after a prompt to "access contacts", which also appears in newer versions of Android. After Intercept pointed out the behaviour, he stated "the data request will be removed on next update" and that Sarahah's servers now don't host contacts.
One of the most downloaded apps, Julian estimates that it is possible that Sarahah may have already harvested hundreds of millions of phone numbers and email addresses.
With its growing popularity, Sarahah likely has a large database of contacts and other personal information. The site doesn't ask for or require access to your contacts in the digital address books for you to use Sarahah. In this case, Julian installed the app on a SamsungGalaxy S5 running Android 5.1.1.
On a related note, it is very common for Android apps to secretly team up and steal your data. In 2014, security researchers were able to decloak posters on the app by tricking the app's contact-matching system.
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.
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