If you haven’t heard of the Sarahah App, you have been/or are living under the rock! Last month, social media was in the grip of this – if you ask us – inane app!
Approximately 300 million users went gaga over Sarahah. The App was meant to get feedback from friends, family, and acquaintances. In a nutshell, it enabled people to leave anonymous messages. Just a sad reinforcement of how badly in need of validation and attention, the Internet generation is!
What was so great about Sarahah?
Sarahah – meaning ‘Honesty’ in Arabic – was created by Zain Alabdin Tawfiq in 2016 as a employee forum to get constructive feedback. The website got popular when Arabs living in Canada started using Sarahah.
Going by its popularity, an app was created and launched on App store. Soon, it went viral and became the second most downloaded app, snatching the position of Snapchat. Seizing the opportunity, Snapchat added a feature allowing users to share Sarahah messages and even promoted Sarahah installs.
The app supposedly gave people confidence boost and helped them with character strengthening. It beats us though. If the idea is to be appreciated, then why do you need to go incognito!
If you ask us, the truth of the matter is that anonymity gave people the cover they needed to say what they wanted: good, bad, sweet, ugly, derogatory, hurtful, sarcastic. The receiver, however, couldn’t message back.
People shared their Sarahah links through Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook, and even Twitter. An app for desktops was designed too. And whether you were playing the Sarahah game or not, you sure were forced to see frenzied message postings – of people playing the guessing game – that came on your newsfeed!
Till late August, nobody was privy to the security threat Sarahah posed for mobile users.
What was the security threat that the app posed?
Some experts were concerned about a security loophole in the app. Sarahah appraently stored user’s personal contact data like phone numbers and email addresses to its servers without proper permission. It’s not the first app to do so. Pokemon Go and even Microsoft have been accused of violating users’ privacy.
Once the security flaw was highlighted, Sarahah developer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq came forwarded and tweeted that this flaw would be removed with the future updates. Tawfiq told The Intercept that the feature was not supposed to be with the app. He claimed that his ex-partner – who he had created the app with – was supposed to take care of it but missed out. He also claimed that Sarahah no longer has any contact details with it. But we can’t quite ascertain what actually happened.
Is there proof of the ‘security issue’ not being of significance?
Some would like to believe that Sarahah is not stealing the data. Apparently, they are storing the personal data with user’s permission. These experts claim that the app took necessary permission to access your personal data and stores it on its servers. According to them, the app mentions that to work they would access your contacts, which they consider as a permission to justify the act.
Moreover, the developer claims that the information taken is for the new feature, which is to be released soon.
Why were people hooked to this silly app?
Like we said, it’s a case study on all that is wrong with ‘millennials’. The App was/is addictive because it was a way of being validated. Facebook and Twitter timelines were flooded with honey-coated and overtly sugary messages. And people kept ‘guessing’ who among their well-wishers had left them those messages. It’s a different thing that, a lot many people were also annoyed with this practice. As if, selfies were not enough!
Although the app specifically asked to leave a ‘constructive message’, closet bullies saw this as an opportunity to hurt people.
However, Tawfiq, in an interview with the BBC, said, “Misuse is a challenge for all social networks. In Sarahah, we do believe, that one case is too many. We’ve taken a lot of measures, I don’t want to give details of these measures because I don’t want to make the misuser’s job easier. But we do have features such as blocking, filtering, and many other techniques.”
What do we learn from such trends?
Trends come and go. That is how Social Media works. Following trends without knowing the pros and cons is not a wise choice. The Internet is a cavernous place with plenty of good and bad things. You ought to use discretion while using it! Moreover, parents of teens need to monitor their children and ensure they are not using apps or any other means that could harm their mental and/or physical health.
Note: All images sourced from Google