Sarahah Has Been Downloading All the Data In Your Address Book

Sarahah

The widely popular honesty app Sarahah is not being honest with its users.

Later creator of the app, Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq said that this feature, where the app was uploading the entire contact detail to the servers would be removed in a later update. The app asks for permission to access the user's contacts when installing, but does not state that the data will be uploaded back to the company's servers. Also the researcher has shown, if the app is not used for sometime, it again re-uploads the contact, so clearly this is a feature that was known by the developer.

Sarahah lets people sign up to receive anonymised, candid messages and has been surging in popularity; somewhere north of 18 million people are estimated to have downloaded it from Apple and Google's online stores, making it one of the most downloaded app for iPhones and iPads. The app is however, collecting more than feedback messages. The app is available in two languages, English and Arabic, for iOS and Android users. When launched for the first time, the app uploads your contact list, including phone numbers and email addresses. "Even in an innocent use case, if the data is not being handled safely, a server breach could allow malicious parties access to this contacts data", he said. While on iOS, the app says that it needs to access the users' contacts to show who has an account on the platform; on Android, the app seeks permission to access contacts without giving any reasons for the same.

However, this is not uncommon for free apps like Sarahah to access user's phone contacts. It also does not seem to make any functional use of the information. He also tweeted that Sarahah now stores no contacts in its databases, which is impossible to verify. In the privacy policy page, it has been stated specifically that if it plans to use your data, it will ask for consent. He also tweeted saying the feature was supposed to help in an upcoming update to the app, which would let users find their friends on the app. "Sarahah has between 10 and 50 million installs on just the Play Store alone for Android, so if you extrapolate that number, it could easily get into hundreds of millions of phone numbers and email addresses that they've harvested".

For those who have installed Sarahah but no longer wish to share their data, head over to settings apps and select the app. On both iOS and Android, there is no mention of data being uploaded to a server. Over there you can manually disable the permission to access contacts.

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